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6 Mar, 2008 16:58

Gas and NATO divide Ukraine

Ukraine is about to face a political crisis. The parliament has been virtually paralysed for the last couple of weeks and members of the opposition are protesting against plans to join NATO.

The leadership of Ukraine – President Yushchenko, PM Timoshenko and Parliament Chairman Yatsenyuk – sent what's been dubbed the “Letter of Three” to the NATO alliance, asking it to accept Ukraine into the membership plan.

The opposition, the Party of Regions and the Communists, say they had no right to do this without consulting the parliament and the people. Intent on keeping their country from joining NATO, opposition parties have blocked the rostrum.

“The parliament will resume work but only after we find a common solution. We cannot allow our government to ignore their people. A referendum must be held on the issue first,” said Viktor Yanukovich, leader of the Party of Regions.

While the Party of Regions is promising to take people out onto the streets if no compromise is found, President Yushchenko is threatening to dissolve the parliament.

“We all know that this blockade has no genuine reasons. Our government will work no matter what. We don’t need another election. It’s not going to change anything,” said Timoshenko.

Anti-Nato balloons and posters disrupted President Yushchenko while he delivered his state of the union speech.

They agreed on Thursday that Ukraine will only join Nato after a state referendum.

However, the coalition says the opposition alliance was only a pretence to disrupt the work of the parliament.

“It wasn’t really about NATO, it wasn't really about foreign policy. It was about this opposition that can’t work in this parliament and hoped to use this crisis to change the situation in the country. They lost it. We have a coalition government that is going to work westwards,”  said Andriy Shevchenko from Timoshenko’s party.

The issues with gas and NATO seem to have been  resolved for now. Not for long though, say the analysts. With a presidential election in a year’s time, there might be more speculation and scandal.