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Ukrainian Parliament Approves Security Chief After Raids

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko

KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's parliament has backed the appointment of Valentyn Nalyvaichenko as head of the SBU security service, days after its officers raided gas industry offices.

The vote, with 230 deputies voting in favor in the 450-seat assembly, amounted to a small sign that embittered relations between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko might be on the mend.

Nalivaichenko, a career diplomat, had been acting head of the SBU since 2006.

Tymoshenko's group in parliament voted in favor of the appointment together with the bloc of parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and the pro-presidential Our Ukraine party.

The SBU is responsible under the constitution to the president, who approved a raid by officers in riot gear this week on the national energy company Naftogaz as part of what officials said was a criminal investigation. The company was at the time preparing to settle a bill for imported Russian gas.

SBU officers this week also tried to enter the offices of Ukrtransgaz, which oversees Ukraine's pipeline network.

Tymoshenko, the president's ally from the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution, but now his archrival, denounced the raids as illegal and groundless.

Her allies had long blocked the president's bid to secure Nalivaichenko's approval in parliament and had called on him to propose an alternative candidate.

Tymoshenko has for weeks promised to proceed with a cabinet shuffle, particularly after the resignation last month of her finance minister after public differences between the two.

But she has not made any formal proposals as negotiations on candidates likely to win parliamentary approval proceed.

The president also needs to win parliamentary backing to appoint a new foreign minister, one of his appointments to the cabinet, after Volodymur Ohryzko was sacked by the chamber this week.