Soviet-Era Minister Regains Ukraine Post

KIEV -- Ukraine's President Leonid Kravchuk received a boost Thursday in an uphill battle for re-election when parliament overwhelmingly approved his conservative nominee for prime minister. Vitaly Masol, a former prime minister in the Soviet era, received 199 votes in the parliament 10 days before the presidential poll. Only 24 voted against. Communists and their allies, whose support Kravchuk needs to win the election, gave enthusiastic support to Masol, forced from office in October 1990 by mass student demonstrations. Masol, who also once headed Soviet Ukraine's economic planning body, pledged to move forward with Ukraine's timid economic reforms. But it was not at all certain that he would be a compliant figure. "The crisis is not yet over. The toughest consequences are still ahead and an explosion could well be awaiting us," he told the chamber after the vote. "Profound economic reforms are impossible if there is no consensus in society. I would ask everyone to refrain from taking destructive actions like strikes for a given period of time to prevent further destabilization." Masol, who has called for a large measure of state control in the transition to market economics, said stabilizing Ukraine's devastated post-Soviet economy would take at least 12 to 18 months. But he also said he wanted the prime minister to have full executive powers to carry out change -- a stand that will hardly be to Kravchuk's liking. Kravchuk, who was campaigning Thursday in the Black Sea port of Odessa, trails former prime minister Leonid Kuchma in most opinion polls. The latest survey put him 1 percentage point behind. He can count on support in nationalist western Ukraine but needs backing in the industrialized Russian-speaking east, where commitment to the new Ukrainian state is minimal. But some deputies predicted Kravchuk's maneuver in securing Masol's appointment would backfire. "Kravchuk was under the pressure of campaigning when he presented his candidate," said Vyacheslav Chornovil, head of the nationalist Rukh party. "This amounts to offering a bone. Suppose this premier does not want to be responsible to a president other than the one who nominated him? We could well be in for clashes."