Ukrainian minister loses same job twice in two days

A court in Kiev has suspended Thursday’s appointment of Yuri Lutsenko as the acting interior minister. Just a day before, he was sacked from his position as Interior Minister.

The statement was made by an MP from the faction of the Party of Regions, Sergey Kivalov, who heads the parliamentary committee for justice, Interfax agency reports. The suit against Lutsenko’s appointment was brought to court by Vladyslav Lukianov, also a member of the party led by presidential hopeful Viktor Yanukovich.

Ukraine’s parliament, Verkhovna Rada, dismissed Lutsenko from the post of interior affairs minister by 231 votes at an extraordinary session on January 28.

On the same day, the Cabinet of Ministers appointed the man as acting interior affairs minister.

The opposition Party of Regions – which is in fact the largest within the Rada – has been calling for his resignation for many months.

“We’ve been forcing this decision because of systematic violations of the electoral law by Lutsenko’s interior ministry. He has been trying to manipulate the election process in contravention of the country’s law. And this has been proved in courts,” said deputy-speaker of the Rada and one of the party’s front men, Alexander Lavrinovich.

Some have already questioned the sensational news coming from Ukraine’s legislative body – such a high-profile sacking in the middle of a presidential campaign was not expected by many. Especially after the first round of the presidential vote, which was deemed fair and transparent by international observers. But the Party of Regions claims it was Monday’s mysterious raid at the Ukraina printing factory – which is responsible for printing ballots for the presidential vote – that became the final straw in the long-running fight between Lutsenko and the “Regionals”.

“This reminds me of one Soviet film,” said Lutsenko, having learnt that he was to be fired. “When a gang wanted to take over a village, they first had to get rid of a policeman. I understand: now that the policeman has been dealt with, they can do their dirty work.”

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Yuri Lutsenko – a rigorous member of the opposition during the previous regime and an active member of the Orange forces – has had two spells in Ukraine’s interior ministry, both with Yulia Timoshenko as prime minister. He has been known for both his reformist nature (he has been leading the so-far-unsuccessful fight against massive corruption in the police, has reformed the traffic police and imposed bigger fines for traffic violations) and scandals which surrounded him.

In 2008 Lutsenko was believed to have been involved in a brawl with Kiev’s mayor, Leonid Chernovetsky. The minister slapped Chernovetsky in the face and later said he was not going to apologize to a thief. A year later, Lutsenko’s name made scandalous headlines once again – Yuri was detained with his 19-year-old son at Frankfurt airport, after the allegedly drunk minister showed aggression towards airport security personnel. Denying all claims, Lutsenko even tried to resign to stop the persecution in the press, but his boss – Yulia Timoshenko – did not accept his resignation. This time round, despite parliament’s grim verdict on Lutsenko’s fate, the prime minister yet again backed her long-time ally.

“Let’s not make any extreme conclusions,” said Timoshenko while on election tour in the south of Ukraine. “Today I will sign a decree to employ Lutsenko as the deputy minister of interior affairs and also as a temporary head of the ministry. He will continue his work on preventing flaws in the election.”

And the iron lady of Ukrainian politics kept her word. Just several hours after getting the sack, Lutsenko was installed in the new position, and until a new interior minister is appointed, he will continue being de-facto at the helm of the ministry. The leader of party of the regions, presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich, reacted to the fact that they did not quite get what they wanted. He urged Lutsenko to be a man and accept his expulsion.

However, just as it has been for the last five years in the murky world of Ukrainian politics, nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, or who will be controlling one of the key governmental bodies in the country, extremely vital for the upcoming vote.

Alexey Yaroshevsky, RT