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Ukraine: As Her Program Is Unannounced, Analysts Say Tymoshenko Is Shoo-In As Next Ukrainian PM

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has named his controversial "Orange Revolution" ally, Yuliya Tymoshenko, as acting prime minister. Tymoshenko -- who frequently appeared side-by-side with Yushchenko during November and December's street protests in Kyiv -- still needs to be approved by parliament. Although her program has not been announced, she previously promised to review murky privatization deals and push forward market reforms. She also pledged to review the national budget and restart Ukraine's efforts to join the European Union. Analysts say her appointment is virtually guaranteed.

Prague, 25 January 2005 -- Yuliya Tymoshenko all but demanded on 5 January that she be nominated to the prime minister's post.

Tymoshenko said she expected President-elect Viktor Yushchenko to honor an agreement she said had been concluded in June, which she said promised her the nomination if Yushchenko won the presidency.

That wish came true yesterday, when Yushchenko's office made the announcement as he was on his way to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Oleksandr Lytvynenko, an analyst with the independent Rozumkov Center think thank in Kyiv, said the date was not yet known when parliament will discuss Tymoshenko's candidacy. But he said he was sure she would get the support she needed.

"I think that her chances to be approved are rather high," Lytvynenko said. "Experts say that practically any candidate proposed by Yushchenko to the post of prime minister would be approved by the parliament now."

Lytvynenko said an unofficial survey indicated that only the Communist faction, some Social Democrats, and parliamentarians from the eastern parts of the country are likely to oppose Tymoshenko. He said her chances are increased by the fact that during the election campaign she made a successful tour of the eastern Donetsk region, where many of her opponents live.

Tymoshenko has not discussed her plans or program, but Lytvynenko said she will have to adhere to the president's platform.

"Practically, she has not presented her program as prime minister," Lytvynenko said. "However, I think that she will act in the framework of the election campaign of the president. I think it stipulated her appointment. [With her as prime minister,] some reforms will be more quick and more dynamic."

Igor Losev, a professor of history and philosophy at Kyiv's Mohyla Academy, said true reforms were unlikely to come until after parliamentary elections, due in spring 2006.

"I think it would be suicide to start [serious] reforms now, when only a year is left until the general elections," Losev said. "Only such reforms will be implemented that do not affect the majority of the people."

Losev said Tymoshenko's first likely steps would be launching an anticorruption campaign, fighting local business clans, and canceling some shady privatization deals. But he predicted there would be no nationalization on a massive scale.

Tymoshenko earned a reputation as a passionate reformer when she served as deputy prime minister from 1999 to 2001. She also earned the enmity of Ukraine's tycoons.

Losev also said he believed the new government would do everything it could to improve European integration. The analyst said a lot could be done to build on Western support for the "Orange Revolution" and its leaders.

"Even without being an EU member, Ukraine realistically can get a free trade [agreement], can also join a customs union in several years," Losev said. "It is also realistic to facilitate a visa regime between the EU and Ukraine."

There is goodwill toward Ukraine in Brussels, too. The European Union has announced a plan to support Ukraine's new government, including moves to dismantle trade barriers, increase investment, and deepen cooperation on foreign and security policy.

The other foreign policy challenge is putting Ukraine's relations with Russia on more equal terms. Tymoshenko's appointment is widely seen as a sign that Yushchenko might be tough in his relations with Moscow.

During Yushchenko's visit to Moscow yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered these tentative comments about the new Ukrainian government.

"I think that we don't need to assess the new Ukrainian government," Putin said. "First of all, it has not been formed yet, as far as I know. And second, results of the work of any government should be assessed by the citizens of the country in which the respective government operates."

Putin openly backed Yushchenko's opponent, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, in the presidential election.

He declined to comment on Tymoshenko's appointment.

Russian prosecutors have wanted to question Tymoshenko about allegations she bribed Russian defense officials in the 1990s. She described the accusations as politically motivated.