Lawmakers Block Yushchenko's Speech

APPrime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko making a statement in Kiev on Tuesday.
KIEV -- President Viktor Yushchenko canceled his state-of-the-nation speech to parliament on Tuesday after lawmakers loyal to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko blocked the speaker's chair.

The incident, the second time this year that Yushchenko has been blocked from making the speech, illustrated the tensions between him and Tymoshenko.

It also threatened new turmoil in a country that has lurched from one political crisis to another over the past half-decade.

Yushchenko also was blocked from making the annual address in February by opposition lawmakers protesting his drive to bring Ukraine into NATO. But Yushchenko's and Tymoshenko's parties formed a governing coalition last year, and Tuesday's dispute showed it to be perilously fragile.

"For the first time in our history, we have an unprecedented case when the parliamentary majority, which bears responsibility for the work of the Ukrainian parliament, is blocking it," a somber Yushchenko told reporters outside the hall where he had been due to speak.

The pro-Tymoshenko lawmakers were protesting what they saw as Yushchenko's lack of action to counter soaring inflation and his resistance to other concessions. Tymoshenko said Tuesday that Yushchenko was trying to undermine her before the presidential election in 2010.

Tymoshenko claims Yushchenko is deliberately undermining her government's work in order to weaken her, while the president charges Tymoshenko is not doing enough to stop inflation, which has soared to over 20 percent.