December 24, 2007 / 7:39 PM / 11 years ago

Ukraine president appoints rival's ally to key post

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday gave a top job to an ally of his “Orange Revolution” rival, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, but Yanukovich said he opposed the appointment.

Ukrainian opposition leader and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich speaks during a news conference in Kiev December 24, 2007. REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin

The president named Raisa Bogatyryova to the post of secretary of the National Security and Defence Council a week after overseeing the return to government of a team linked to the 2004 “orange” protests that swept him to power.

Bogatyryova has long been linked to Yanukovich, the president’s rival from the 2004 upheaval. Yanukovich stepped down as prime minister last week to be replaced by Yulia Tymoshenko, who heads a post-election “orange” coalition.

Within hours of the appointment, Yanukovich said his allies could not take senior positions in the new administration.

“We have taken a decision to go into opposition and this does not provide for our participation in the government,” he said in a statement on the Web site of his Regions Party.

“We cannot head state institutions which are going to implement programmes that are not consistent with our vision of Ukraine’s prospects.”

He believed top party officials would back him at a meeting on Tuesday. Yanukovich is also to meet the new prime minister.

During the election, Yushchenko backed the formation of an “orange” coalition, but later said its opponents should also get top jobs to bridge longstanding differences between Ukraine’s nationalist west and centre and the Russian-speaking east.

INITIAL WELCOME

Yanukovich’s allies had initially welcomed the appointment.

“The president is trying to achieve balance in the system of power and find common ground with the east,” top Regions Party member Anna Herman told Interfax Ukraine news agency.

Oleksander Lytvynenko of the Razumkov Centre think tank said the president’s move was aimed at dividing his rivals.

“This was done in the spirit of a policy of ‘divide and conquer’, to sow discord in the Regions Party,” he said.

But Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta political research centre, said the appointment “could cause big problems for Yushchenko ... it could create an outflow of supporters to the prime minister.”

The Security Council, chaired by the president, is periodically convened to deal with issues of strategic interest or national security. Its decisions must be implemented by law.

Previous holders have unequivocally backed the president.

Tymoshenko, prime minister for seven months in 2005 before being fired by Yushchenko, secured parliament’s endorsement as prime minister last week on her second attempt.

She heads a fragile coalition of her own bloc and Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine Party that emerged from the September election and won backing from the minimum number of members.

Tymoshenko has promised a comprehensive programme to uproot corruption and vowed to revise the 2008 budget to take account of an increased gas price and higher-than-anticipated inflation.

Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by Charles Dick

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