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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yekhanurov Rejected as Premier

ReutersYuriy Yekhanurov
KIEV -- Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday rejected President Viktor Yushchenko's choice for prime minister in a stinging defeat for the country's leader less than two weeks after he fired his Orange Revolution team amid an escalating corruption scandal.

Ukraine's chief prosecutor, meanwhile, cleared two of the president's aides of corruption but said an investigation into abuse of power continued against one of Yushchenko's closest allies, Petro Poroshenko.

Lawmakers gave acting Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov only 223 votes, three too few to be approved. He will remain caretaker prime minister while negotiations continue. Yushchenko's chief of staff, Oleh Rybachuk, predicted the president would offer Yekhanurov's name up for a second vote "in several days."

But the defeat in parliament demonstrated how much Yushchenko's hand had weakened after breaking with his main Orange Revolution ally, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who received a record-breaking 373 parliamentary votes when she was named to the post in February.

Yushchenko fired her and her government Sept. 8, and Tymoshenko's supporters linked up with the other opposition parties to block Yekhanurov's candidacy.

The groups that voted Yekhanurov down called for an early introduction of the long-awaited political reforms that will allow the parliamentary majority to name a prime minister and form the government. Some also demanded that parliamentary elections planned for March be called early.

"They intentionally created a crisis to show that it was possible to work with Yulia, and without Yulia it's impossible," said Yuriy Karmazin, a member of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine faction, referring to parties loyal to Tymoshenko. "But to look at what this woman did, it's better for Yulia to be in the kitchen."

Yushchenko visited the parliament personally Tuesday morning to make a last-minute plea to legislators to approve Yekhanurov's candidacy. He sought support in unusual corners, meeting with losing presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych in a bid to win the backing of his 52-person bloc. But Yanukovych also met with Tymoshenko and, in the end, maintained his original order that his lawmakers abstain from voting.

Yushchenko did not comment after the vote.

Communist leader Petro Symonenko, who opposed Yekhanurov, said political trading was "continuing as the stakes grow" and accused Yushchenko and his team of being unable to successfully present a candidate for prime minister.

Ukraine has been embroiled in a political crisis since Yushchenko's former chief of staff, Oleksandr Zinchenko, suddenly quit Sept. 3 and later publicly accused Poroshenko and other top presidential aides of corruption. Five criminal cases have been opened against officials from the security body that Poroshenko had run, Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun said. The charges related to abuse of power and interfering in the work of courts, Piskun said.

He did not specify whether investigators had opened proceedings against Poroshenko himself, but added that he "appears to be linked with some cases" against other officials and that the investigation was proceeding against the close ally of Yushchenko. Poroshenko was not yet ready to comment, said his spokeswoman, Irina Friz.

Piskun noted that two other key aides to Yushchenko, Oleksandr Tretyakov and Mykola Martinenko, who had also been accused of corruption, were "clean before the law."