Ukrainian lawmaker and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has accused the leadership of parliament -- the Verkhovna Rada -- of intentionally impeding an impeachment process against President Petro Poroshenko just a month before Ukraine's presidential election.
Tymoshenko, a presidential candidate whose Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party has joined with other parties to start the impeachment process, told parliament on February 28 that the Verkhovna Rada's leadership had annulled forms to support the impeachment drive.
She also said the parliamentary leadership has refused to register a draft resolution on creating a temporary commission to investigate the alleged involvement of Poroshenko's close associates in the smuggling of spare parts from Russia for military equipment.
"That means that [parliament's leadership] is covering up the crime, is trying to silence it," Tymoshenko said.
Parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy rejected Tymoshenko's statement and called on her "to stop imposing pressure on parliament's activities."
Tymoshenko announced her party's move to impeach the president on February 26, accusing Poroshenko of treason.
The move came a day after a media outlet aired a program alleging that people close to Poroshenko enriched themselves by smuggling spare parts for military equipment from Russia.
With the March 31 election less than five weeks away, the report on media outlet Bihus.Info's program Nashi Hroshi (Our Money) threw an explosive new element into the election campaign.
Poroshenko, a pro-Western tycoon who came to power after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in early 2014, is trying to overcome a steep drop in public support in order to be reelected.
The election comes amid persistent economic challenges in the country and an ongoing war in eastern Ukraine against Russia-backed separatists.
Poroshenko on February 28 issued his first public reaction to the investigative journalists' report, saying on his presidential website that a probe has been launched into the allegations.
The presidential website said the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU), and the Specialized Anticorruption Prosecutor (SAP) are investigating the case.
"If the facts are confirmed, then, no doubt, neither names nor posts will save anyone involved.... I remind that following the investigation, all guilty persons will be held accountable," Poroshenko said.
Meanwhile, three Ukrainian lawmakers on February 28 announced that they've decided to quit Poroshenko's political group, the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko (BPP), because of the investigative report.
Mustafa Nayyem wrote on Twitter that he and the BBP "have been on different sides of the barricades for a long time," and his decision to quit was just a formality.
Serhiy Leshchenko and Svitlana Zalishchuk announced about their decision to quit the BPP on Facebook.
Allegations about ties or transactions involving Russia are particularly sensitive In Ukraine because of Moscow's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea and its role in the war that has killed some 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatist hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The Ukrainian Constitution says the president "can be impeached if he or she commits high treason or other crimes."
Among other things, the process requires an investigation by a special prosecutor and multiple votes in parliament, including a three-fourths vote following approval by the Constitutional Court.