Ukrainian Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko, recently nominated for president, has apparently launched a serious offensive against the government of his major rival, President Leonid Kuchma, in an attempt to shatter his team and spoil his campaign. Tkachenko is coordinating his moves with those of another hardline presidential candidate, communist leader Petro Symonenko, despite their squabbling over which of them should be the leftist presidential candidate. On May 31, Tkachenko accused the cabinet of Premier Valery Pustovoytenko of recruiting parliamentary journalists to help collect MP signatures advocating Tkachenko’s dismissal. Tkachenko also accused Kuchma of conspiring to dissolve the parliament–which the president indignantly denied. On June 1, Symonenko took up and continued the offensive, claiming from the parliament rostrum that the Zlahoda (Accord) union–an organization of state bureaucrats and pro-Kuchma politicians set up by Premier Valery Pustovoytenko to back Kuchma’s second bid–is financed from regional budgets on direct orders from the government. Tkachenko then promptly moved his flank forward in requesting the parliament’s Accounts Chamber to check the sources of Zlahoda’s financing. All this may seriously undermine Pustovoytenko’s position as the key figure in Kuchma’s campaign. Pustovoytenko had on several occasions stressed that not a single penny from the state coffers would be spent on Zlahoda. Symonenko and Tkachenko also announced that a no-confidence motion against Pustovoytenko’s cabinet may appear on the parliament agenda next week (Ukrainian television and agencies, May 31-June 1; see the Monitor, June 1).
Pustovoytenko–who is both very loyal to Kuchma and utterly dependent, under the constitution, on him–is an easy target for the “red” opposition speculating on the continuing economic turmoil. The premier anticipated a confrontation between the leftist parliament majority and his government last week. On hearing the news about Tkachenko’s nomination, the premier described his own position as “the worst of all.” “If I don’t support Kuchma, he will sack me and if I don’t support Tkachenko, there are also problems looming,” he said in a television interview (Inter, May 29). The premier may be removed from office by a two-thirds majority in a parliamentary vote, but this is unlikely, given that the hardliners who oppose him control roughly only half of the sitting parliament.–OV
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