KIEV, Jan. 30 – Relations between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko came under strain again Wednesday following controversial remarks by Tymoshenko claiming her group may start cooperating with the Regions Party, the opposition group.
Tymoshenko, in an interview with EuroNews television channel in Brussels, said it was possible for her parliamentary bloc to join forces with the opposition Regions Party, Parliament’s largest single group, in a coalition. This marks a shift from her persistent and flat rejections of the idea.
But when the remarks were made by public by Ukrayinska Pravda, an online newspaper, Tymoshenko issued a special statement on Wednesday in Kiev to deny them.
The development comes amid worsening relations between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko over economic policy, natural gas sector and privatization, over clouding the future of their pro-Western government.
The remark was made at a very sensitive time, shortly afte Tymoshenko and Yushchenko had already exchanged sharp comments suggesting both may compete against each other in the presidential election late next year.
It also comes amid widespread speculation in Kiev that the Tymoshenko group and the Regions Party theoretically could join forces for the impeachment of the president, if the standoff persists. The Regions Party and the Tymoshenko group, the two biggest groups in Parliament, jointly control more than 300 votes, enough to override a veto from the president.
When asked by EuroNews reporter if it’s possible that Tymoshenko could join forces in the coalition with the Regions Party, Tymoshenko relied: “It’s possible, but under conditions of our team.”
“Our conditions are 20 clauses of de-shadowization of politics and economy. If the Regions Party is ready for this, please welcome, as they say,” Tymoshenko said in a transcript of the interview published by Ukrayinska Pravda.
“But judging on their latest actions that the Regions Party has made while being in power, neither [its] business wing nor politicians are ready for the transparent terms of life,” Tymoshenko said. “That’s why we build cooperation with them by European standards, as the government and the opposition.”
But shortly after her return to Kiev, Tymoshenko rushed to deny the comments.
“I categorically deny this,” Tymoshenko said. “At EuroNews we were talking about cooperation with the Regions Party only as between the government and the opposition.”
Yushchenko and Tymoshenko on Wednesday appeared jointly at a business forum in Kiev, without making any remarks abut their worsening relationship.
Tymoshenko, unlike Yushchenko, has been so far flatly ruling any cooperation with the Regions Party. Her strong stance on the issue has led to the collapse of the grand coalition government that Yushchenko has been seeking to form after the snap Sept. 30, 2007 election.
But with relations between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko strained, both might have been seeking to court the Regions Party as a potential coalition partner in case the Tymoshenko government collapses, analysts said.
Serhiy Hrynevetskiy, a lawmaker and member of the centrist bloc led by former Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, said the pro-Western coalition has been suffering difficult time and could collapse.
He said he knew of at least 20 coalition lawmakers that had been critical of both, the president and the prime minister, ready to form the new coalition, perhaps including the Lytvyn Bloc and the Regions Party.
“There will be a new coalition,” Hrynevetskiy said. (tl/ez)