Orange Turns Bitter

A close aide to President Viktor Yushchenko who was a chief organizer of the Orange Revolution protests said Monday he had resigned from the government because of systemic corruption around the Ukrainian leader.

Oleksandr Zinchenko, who resigned Saturday, said the situation had grown "even worse" than under former President Leonid Kuchma.

Zinchenko accused Petro Poroshenko, the head of Ukraine's Defence and Security Council, of being one of the most corrupt members of the government. He also criticized Oleksandr Tretyakov, a top aide to Yushchenko, and Mykola Martynenko, who heads the pro-presidential faction in parliament.

Poroshenko attended the news conference, which was broadcast live, and stood in the back frowning as Zinchenko spoke. When Zinchenko completed his prepared statement, lengthy applause broke out in the room.

Zinchenko's departure as state secretary is the first major resignation since Yushchenko took office in January, after last year's bitter and prolonged campaign in this former Soviet republic.

Zinchenko said he decided to make such a "sharp public announcement" to ensure that Ukrainians and Yushchenko understood the extent of the problem. He said he had repeatedly called on Yushchenko to fire Poroshenko.

"With my resignation, I am trying to sharply convey this danger to the president and his team," Zinchenko said.

After Zinchenko finished speaking, Poroshenko took the podium and said this was "the hardest day" of his life. Clearly angry, he accused Zinchenko of trying to "explode (Yushchenko's) team from the inside" and challenged him to find evidence to back up his allegations.

"He didn't look in my eyes the entire time he was reading his statement," Poroshenko said of his former ally.

Martynenko later threatened to sue Zinchenko for libel, according to Ukrainian news agencies. Tretyakov could not immediately be reached to comment.

Zinchenko, who had served as deputy speaker of parliament, was initially aligned with Kuchma; he was a senior party official in the Ukrainian Socialist Party, headed by Kuchma's former chief-of-staff, Viktor Medvedchuk.

But Zinchenko fell out with the party, and was dismissed from its ranks in 2003. He later aligned himself with Yushchenko and became a constant sight at the president's side during last year's campaign.


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