KIEV, Jan. 21 – President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday reshuffled his top security body, the National Security and Defense Council, removing 25 loyal regional leaders and limiting the number of seats in the body to 14.
The move underscores growing confidence at the Yushchenko office that the president now has been keeping political situation under control following last year’s constitutional crisis and the clash with the government.
The council is Ukraine’s top security authority and is allowed under certain circumstances to override decisions taken by the government, according to the constitution. Yushchenko used that clause during the standoff with the pro-Russian government of then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
In the midst of the standoff in May 2007, Yushchenko appointed 25 regional governors to the council, a move that had given the president an overwhelming control over the body. All governors have been previously appointed to their top regional posts by the president, ensuring their loyalty.
Analysts said Yushchenko may have been preparing to use the council as an interim government in the event the clash with the Yanukovych government had persisted and escalated.
But tensions eased in early June 2007, after Yanukovych had accepted Yushchenko’s plan for the snap election in September 2007 as the way out of the crisis.
Yushchenko’s party, Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense, jointly with the group led by Yulia Tymoshenko, won the election, helping to unseat Yanukovych and to appoint the loyal pro-Western government last month.
Now, after removing the governors from the council, Yushchenko limited the number of seats in the body at 14.
The council now includes Yushchenko, his chief of staff Viktor Baloha, and Raisa Bohatyriova, the secretary of the council. She is also a member of opposition Regions Party.
The council also includes Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, Internal Affairs Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service Mykola Malomuzh, Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko, acting head of the SBU security service Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko.
It also includes Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Parliamentary Speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk, Emergency Situations Minister Volodymyr Shandra, National Bank of Ukraine Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh and National Academy of Sciences President Boris Paton. (tl/ez)