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Ukrainian Parliament Appoints Tymoshenko As PM

Yuliya Tymoshenko(file photo) 4 February 2005 -- Viktor Yushchenko's choice of prime minister was confirmed today as 373 of the parliament's 450 deputies voted to approve Yuliya Tymoshenko.

On the eve of the vote, Tymoshenko issued to lawmakers a 63-page, five-year government program laying out goals to fight corruption, raise living standards, and lead the country into European Union membership talks.

The charismatic Tymoshenko is a close ally of the newly elected President Viktor Yushchenko and was one of the leaders of the street protests that forced a re-run of the presidential election in December 2004.

Following the vote, the lawmakers broke into applause as Tymoshenko smiled broadly and hugged Yushchenko.

Today's parliamentary debate began with the new Ukrainian president formally introducing his choice for the premiership.

"The people expect the new government to be honest and to find solutions to the problems that my nation has faced for 14 years," Yushchenko said. "I assure you that I have full faith and trust [that they can achieve that goal]. So, dear friends, using the right given to me by the constitution, I ask for your approval, the approval of the Supreme Rada, to appoint Yuliya Volodymyrovna Tymoshenko as Ukrainian prime minister."

The vote on Tymoshenko was postponed yesterday because of disagreements over the composition of her cabinet. Today's strong show of support indicates the dispute between Socialists, nationalists and reformers was resolved.
"I want you to know that I view the trust you have given me today as the highest value in my life." -- Yuliya Tymoshenko

In a speech before the parliamentary vote, Tymoshenko promised a wide range of radical reforms she said would fulfill promises made during the Orange Revolution that brought Yushchenko to power and ousted the pro-government regime -- raising living standards, wiping out corruption and bringing Ukraine closer to the European Union.

"We have awakened the faith and hope of the people that the government can work not only for itself, that it can work not only to solve its own problems, but that it can work for those people who have only observed the government for 12 years and now want results from it," she said.

Relations With Russia

Tymoshenko described Russia as Ukraine's "first and most important partner." But following her confirmation, she said the government would take steps to approve a national strategy of European integration.

The new prime minister also promised to honor the trust given her by the parliament and the people of Ukraine.

"I want to assure you that I will under no circumstances disappoint the people of Ukraine, the president of Ukraine, or any one of you [members of parliament]," she said. "I want you to know that I view the trust you have given me today as the highest value in my life, and I will not damage it by any step I take."

Tymoshenko was a highly visible figure during the mass protests that broke out following the November presidential election in which Yushchenko's rival, Viktor Yanukovych, was declared the winner.

The Supreme Court later ruled the vote fraudulent and ordered a December 26 re-vote, which Yushchenko won.

Tymoshenko's nationalist and pro-reform rhetoric has made her deeply unpopular among the large Russian-speaking minority in the country's east. Building bridges with eastern Ukraine will be one of Tymoshenko's biggest challenges during her tenure as prime minister.

She will also have to build bridges with Russia itself. Russian prosecutors have long sought to question Tymoshenko about allegations she bribed Russian defense officials in the 1990s, at a time when she controlled a massive energy empire and was considered Ukraine's richest businesswoman.

Tymoshenko describes the accusations as politically motivated.

(Compiled from wire service reports.)

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