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Ukraine Minister Resigns Over Euro-2012 Preparations

A stadium under construction in Donetsk, Ukraine

A stadium under construction in Donetsk, Ukraine

KYIV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's transport minister resigned on June 17, the fourth minister to leave the cabinet this year, after accusing Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko of blocking funds for the Euro-2012 football championship.

Yosip Vinsky, who rivals say may challenge Tymoshenko in a presidential election expected early next year, said the government was not doing enough to prepare for Europe's top international football competition.

Tymoshenko denied the accusation and said Vinsky had planned large-scale misuse of public funds.

Ukraine is co-hosting the event with neighboring Poland and is under pressure to improve its preparations or face punitive measures by European soccer's governing body UEFA limiting which matches it may host.

"The prime minister is blocking...the deployment of sufficient resources for the construction of infrastructure for the Euro-2012 championships," Vinsky was quoted as saying by his media spokeman.

The championship preparations were one of a series of political and policy disagreements with Tymoshenko that forced him to resign, Vinsky said.

Tymoshenko, addressing reporters after a cabinet meeting, accused Vinsky of planning to misuse his ministry's funds intended for Ukraine's post service to help organise his presidential campaign.

"I understand that Mr Vinsky was displeased that we put a stop to his improper use of up to 15 million hryvnias ($2 million) in funds meant for the post office which he intended to use for promoting himself," she said.

"I believe this could be a good lesson for everyone who has committed the sin of illegal use of state funds."

Yushchenko, the prime minister's estranged ally turned arch rival, said Vinsky's departure was yet another sign of widespread discontent with government policies.

Parliament must now approve Vinsky's resignation.

UEFA president Michel Platini, long uneasy over slow preparations in Ukraine, last month warned the Euro-2012 final could be moved to Warsaw if problems with Kyiv's main stadium, airport, and transport infrastructure were not resolved.

None of the four ministers who have left the cabinet this year has yet been replaced.

Finance Minister Viktor Pynzenyk quit in a high-profile dispute with the prime minister over policies to tackle the effects of the world financial crisis.

Two other ministers nominated by the president -- Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko and Defence Minister Yuri Yekhanurov -- were forced out by parliamentary vote.