August 4, 2006

Ukraine’s parliament to vote on Yanukovich as PM

By Yuri Kulikov

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's parliament prepared on Friday to
approve Viktor Yanukovich as prime minister, sealing the
comeback of the Moscow-leaning politician after his humiliation
in the "Orange Revolution" two years ago.

"I am itching to get down to work," said Yanukovich. He
will now share power with President Viktor Yushchenko, the man
who defeated him in 2004.

The president said he had cast-iron guarantees from
Yanukovich that he would not try to reverse the revolution's
pro-Western principles.

Yanukovich, who held the prime minister's job before the
revolution, was expected to easily garner the necessary
majority of votes in the Verkhovna Rada parliament. It was not
clear when the vote would take place.

"I've been ready (to serve as prime minister) for a long
time," Yanukovich told reporters in parliament.

Many supporters of the "Orange Revolution" say Yanukovich
will use his new power to check Ukraine's drive to join NATO
and the European Union. They also say business interests close
to him will have undue influence over economic policy.

But markets expect pragmatic economic policies under
Yanukovich and his team. They gained a reputation as competent
managers during their previous stint in government. Yanukovich
has said he will lower taxes for business.

Yanukovich and his allies -- who now include the
president's Our Ukraine party -- were thrashing out the cabinet

Yanukovich's allies will dominate. But under the
constitution Yushchenko has control of key ministries, such as
foreign and defense.

Additionally, the job of first deputy prime minister would
go to a Yushchenko ally, businessman Petro Poroshenko, and the
president would also have the right to appoint the interior
minister, a senior Our Ukraine official told Reuters.

Mykola Azarov, a technocrat who oversaw economic and
financial policy during Yanukovich's last premiership from
2002-04, will be finance minister, said media reports.

Parliament is slated to vote on the cabinet line-up on
Friday but that may be pushed back to Saturday.


Yanukovich favours closer ties with Moscow and is closely
aligned with powerful business interests in the industrial
east. Mass protests in 2004 overturned his election as
president and swept Yushchenko to power instead.

In an interview with Russia's Izvestia newspaper,
Yanukovich said fixing the spluttering economy would be his
priority, and that required a better relationship with Russia.

"If we accept Russia as a partner, than we will be able to
solve our biggest problems, including over gas," he said.

Russia's state gas giant Gazprom briefly cut off supplies
to Ukraine in January in a dispute over contracts. It is now
warning of a second hike in prices. Gas prices are a key factor
in Ukraine's economy.

Yanukovich's Regions party has 186 seats in the 450-seat
parliament. The Communists and Socialists -- Yanukovich allies
-- have 51 seats between them.

Yuschenko's Our Ukraine, with 86 seats, has entered a
'grand coalition' with the Yanukovich group. About a dozen Our
Ukraine lawmakers broke ranks and said they would not vote to
approve him as prime minister.