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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 21:10 GMT
PM promises Ukraine 'new team'
Viktor Yanukovich (left) with President Kuchma
The new premier is an experienced manager
Viktor Yanukovich formally became Ukraine's new prime minister on Friday, less than a week after President Leonid Kuchma sacked his predecessor's government

Appointed caretaker by the president immediately after Anatoli Kinakh's dismissal, Mr Yanukovich was endorsed by a slender majority in parliament on Thursday.


The Ukrainian people have long waited for a team like this

Viktor Yanukovich
Most of the opposition parties abstained during the vote which was passed by 234 MPs out of the 450-seat chamber.

Correspondents say that Mr Yanukovich, a tough regional governor, is seen by the president as having the necessary clout to restore order to Ukraine's troubled political life.

The appointment marked the greatest test yet for the fragile pro-presidential majority in parliament.

In his speech to MPs, Mr Yanukovich highlighted as his main priorities Ukraine's integration into European structures and fighting poverty.

President Leonid Kuchma sacked the previous government reportedly for putting long-term economic growth above social issues.

But the cabinet had been paralysed by political battles following a parliamentary election in March which in which opposition parties narrowly failed to take control of parliament.

'New team'

Governor of the industrial region of Donetsk and a former manager of a state transport company, Mr Yanukovich, 52, points to his experience with handling diverse business groups.

"In Donetsk we have a team of like-minded people," he told MPs.

"And I think that the Ukrainian people have long waited for a team like this."

The comment, however, drew jeers as the region is portrayed by the opposition as being highly criminalised.

The cabinet he intends to appoint by the end of November will be a likely indication of what policies he intends to pursue in office.

Russian link

Correspondents say the appointment of Mr Yanukovich is aimed at securing a smooth exit for President Kuchma when he has to leave his presidential post at the end of a second five-year term in 2004.

His grip on power has been weakened by internal political scandals and accusations of endemic corruption.


I'm convinced Yanukovich's candidacy was arranged in consultation with Moscow

Andrei Yermolayev
analyst
He has denied allegations abroad that he approved sales of a sophisticated radar system to Iraq.

Some analysts suggest that President Kuchma's decision to appoint the governor of Donetsk, a largely ethnic Russian region, as premier is an attempt to move closer to Moscow in response to increasing isolation in the West.

"His nomination was a tactical move to get Moscow's support at a time of crisis in Ukraine's relations with the West," Andrei Yermolayev, an analyst with the Sofia Centre of Social Research, told the French news agency AFP.

"I'm convinced Yanukovich's candidacy was arranged in consultation with Moscow."

As a result of the Iraq allegations, the Ukrainian leader was largely cold-shouldered at a meeting of the 46-member Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in Prague in Friday.

Only Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appeared to break ranks with Western leaders, inviting Mr Kuchma to visit Rome next week.

See also:

16 Nov 02 | Europe
08 Nov 02 | Europe
26 Sep 02 | Europe
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