Yushchenko Points Finger

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Sunday accused the prime minister he dismissed of having acted in favour of certain business groups in a dispute over a metals plant.

Yushchenko strongly criticized former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's government for its handling last month of the re-nationalization of Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant.

"High officials started directing events in favour of corporate interests; then crises appeared," Yushchenko said Sunday. "It was the last straw. I decided firmly that the decision most of all should be the following: Everybody should get lost."

Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko's government on Thursday, ending his political partnership with his former Orange Revolution ally amid a growing scandal over corruption allegations levelled at another one of the president's key revolution allies, Petro Poroshenko. Yushchenko also accepted the resignation of Poroshenko on Thursday from his post as head of the powerful Security and Defence Council.

The situation around Nikopol, one of Europe's largest ferroalloy plants, came to a head at the beginning of September after Ukraine's Economic Appeals Court ordered the factory's shares returned to the state. Tymoshenko's government endorsed a speedy shareholders meeting in which one group of minority shareholders, Privat Bank, was given key management posts. Privat Bank's leaders are reportedly big supporters of Tymoshenko.

Former President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law, who had owned the factory, accused the government of stripping him of his assets only to hand them to his competitors. Viktor Pinchuk rallied his supporters outside the factory, and riot police were called in. Yushchenko eventually intervened, praising the court decision as valid but scolding his government for getting dragged into a feud between two business groups.

"I don't want another such Friday in my life," he said, referring to Sept. 2, when he intervened in the Nikopol crisis. "It is not because of two centres working in Ukraine but because one centre acted against the rules."

Tymoshenko has insisted that she did nothing wrong.

Nikopol, which the Ukrainian court ruled had been illegally privatized in 2003, serves at least 15 of the world's largest steel producers including U.S. Steel Corp. and Germany-based ThyssenKrupp. It was considered one of the crown jewels of Pinchuk's holdings.

Yushchenko also criticized his former ally for her populist moves during her government's seven-month tenure. "The ideas of Independence Square started becoming just a legend," he said.

Yushchenko said the new government must adopt a more pragmatic course. "We are drowning in promises and in PR," he said.


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