KIEV (AFP) — Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Wednesday refused to resign as a political crisis provoked by the Georgian conflict deepened following the collapse of the pro-Western ruling coalition.
Asked at a press conference whether she would resign as required under a coalition pact, Tymoshenko said the coalition had not formally collapsed despite an announcement in parliament and therefore she did not have to quit.
"We are not a flock of sheep who jump into the abyss just because one sheep has done so," she said, referring to a decision by President Viktor Yushchenko's party to leave the ruling coalition earlier this month.
"The coalition has not collapsed.... It's the president and part of his team betraying the democratic coalition who have left it unilaterally," Tymoshenko said after a meeting of the government that went ahead as scheduled.
Her comments came after parliament speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk, a Yushchenko ally, quit his post as required saying: "You have to come to power in a dignified way and you have to leave power in a dignified way too."
The speaker on Tuesday announced the collapse of the pro-Western coalition between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, who were once allies in the so-called Orange Revolution against a Moscow-backed presidential candidate, but they have fallen out.
Yushchenko has warned against Russian interference in the political crisis, which was provoked by discord over Russia's conflict with Georgia and charges that Tymoshenko committed "high treason" by not supporting Georgia enough.
Tymoshenko has rejected the charge, saying she is no Kremlin ally.
European officials have said Ukraine could be the next target for interference by Russia because of the high proportion of Russian-speakers in the country as well as the tensions over Russia's Black Sea fleet, based in southern Ukraine.
Reacting to the collapse of the coalition, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a close ally of Yushchenko in seeking to integrate with the West, said he was "worried" and pointed to "signs" of Russian interference.
Ukrainian newspapers meanwhile played down the prospects of a new coalition agreement, predicting early elections which would be the third parliamentary vote in Ukraine in two years of bitter political infighting.
"It seems there is no more chance for a reconciliation" between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, said the popular Gazeta po-Kievski daily.
Lawmakers from the pro-Russian opposition Regions Party and the Tymoshenko Bloc "have received the order to prepare as actively as possible for new elections," reported the business daily Ekonomicheskie Izvestia.
Under the same coalition agreement that requires Tymoshenko to resign, Yushchenko has the right but not the obligation to call early elections if no new coalition is created before mid-October.
The political crisis began when Yushchenko pulled his Our Ukraine party out of the coalition on September 3 after Tymoshenko sided with the pro-Moscow opposition to pass new laws rolling back the president's powers.
Yushchenko bitterly described the vote against him as a bid by Tymoshenko to establish a "dictatorship" and complained of a parliamentary "coup".
Tymoshenko in turn accused the president of having "destroyed" the governing coalition by pulling out of the alliance with her party.
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