Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych forms coalition

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (r) and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, 11 March 2010
Russian-born Mykola Azarov (left) is seen as close to Viktor Yanukovych

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has secured a coalition in parliament and one of his loyalists has been named as the new prime minister.

Parliament approved the nomination of ex-Finance Minister Mykola Azarov as prime minister shortly after the coalition agreement was announced.

Mr Azarov said his priority was to push through a "realistic" budget for 2010.

Mr Yanukovych had been trying to pull together a loyal coalition after winning presidential polls last month.

He has faced resistance from defeated presidential contender and outgoing Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was forced out in a vote of no confidence last week.

On Thursday Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said that the coalition had been formed on the basis of an agreement signed by the Party of the Regions, the Communist Party, and his Lytvyn bloc.

The coalition includes a total of 235 deputies from the 450-member chamber, he said.

Earlier this week the parliament approved an amendment making it easier for parties to form coalitions by allowing them to recruit individual deputies rather than just parliamentary blocs.

'Empty coffers'

Ukraine has been suffering from political deadlock amid a three-way political contest between Mr Yanukovych, Mrs Tymoshenko, and former President Viktor Yushchenko, impeding efforts to deal with a severe economic crisis.

The International Monetary Fund has suspended part of a $16.4bn (£10.8bn) loan for Ukraine, demanding that the government implement economic reforms.

Yulia Tymoshenko, 9 March 2010
Yulia Tymoshenko attacked the appointed of the new cabinet

After the coalition agreement was announced on Thursday, Mr Azarov said he hoped the IMF would resume lending, while promising to "eliminate the financial problems created by the previous government".

"The country has been plundered, the coffers are empty, state debt has risen threefold," said the Russian-born Mr Azarov, who is seen as a Yanukovych loyalist.

"The main task today is to redraft and get approved a realistic budget."

Mr Yanukovych also appointed other members of the cabinet, including Kostyantyn Khryshchenko - currently Ukraine's ambassador to Russia - who was named as foreign minister.

Mr Yanukovych is seen as closer to Russia than his predecessor Mr Yushchenko.

The new president's initial victory in 2004 elections was overturned amid the pro-Western street protests that became known as the Orange Revolution and that helped bring Mr Yushchenko to power.

Mr Yushchenko and Mrs Tymoshenko were allies during the Orange Revolution, before becoming engaged in a bitter power struggle.

Mrs Tymoshenko says the change to the law on forming coalitions is unconstitutional.

The BBC's David Stern reports from Kiev that according to analysts, the amendment may indeed be unconstitutional, since a similar alteration had previously been rejected.

But he says this will not stop Mr Yanukovych - who signed the amendment into law shortly before forming his cabinet - from pushing forward with his policies.

Mrs Tymoshenko said the appointment of the new government "proves our country has no guarantor of the constitution", while dismissing the cabinet as "made up completely of Ukrainian oligarchs".

"I predict the first thing they will do is to divide amongst themselves the financial spoils... and the strategic state assets for shady privatisation," she was quoted as saying.

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