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Ukraine: Prime Minister Speaks Ahead Of Confidence Vote

Kyiv, 17 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko today addressed parliament in advance of a vote of confidence which will decide whether he remains in his post.

An alliance of Communists -- the largest single party in the Ukrainian parliament -- and parties with loyalties to some of the country's most powerful businessmen want to remove Yushchenko from his post and say they are determined to vote against him. If they all vote against him, they have the numbers to force through a no-confidence motion.

The vote was scheduled to take place on 19 April, but Yushchenko availed himself of a constitutional right to postpone the vote for five working days. It should now take place on 24 April, but as parliament is not scheduled to meet next week there is the possibility of a further delay.

During his address, Yushchenko emphasized the improvement in Ukraine's economy and said the national currency, the hryvnia, had stabilized. He said he wants to stress that the government's policy has been directed toward supporting domestic manufacturers. He said the positive results in the economy are linked to the rebuilding of financial stability and trust toward the national currency.

Yushchenko attributed economic progress to the fact that, in his words, the government was able, for the first time, to unite a tough fiscal policy with a strong monetary policy.

As Yushchenko spoke, around 4,000 supporters from around the country listened to his speech on loudspeakers outside the parliament building. The platform from which he spoke was surrounded by cardboard boxes filled with tens of thousands of signatures on petitions supporting the prime minister.

Protest organizers said there would be more demonstrations supporting Yushchenko on 19 April when members of parliament will vote to approve a report Yuschenko has submitted to lawmakers. Political commentators say that vote will be a good indication of how the confidence motion will go.

If the confidence vote goes against Yushchenko, President Leonid Kuchma has the power to appoint him acting prime minister for an indefinite period.

However, one of Yushchenko's aides, Volodymyr Tsybula, told RFE/RL that Yushchenko will only remain in his post if he wins the vote and will not carry on as acting prime minister because that would leave him in a politically weak position.