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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Premier Seeks to Oust Tarasyuk

KIEV -- Ukraine's prime minister has appealed to prosecutors to stop Borys Tarasyuk from continuing as foreign minister, accusing the pro-Western minister of harming national interests, the Cabinet press office said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's appeal is the latest move in a power struggle with President Viktor Yushchenko. The two share power in an arrangement initially billed as an effort to unite the country, but which instead has turned into a tug-of-war for control -- with Yushchenko on the losing end.

The parliament last month dismissed Tarasyuk, a presidential appointee, at Yanukovych's request. After Tarasyuk appealed against his ouster and won, Yushchenko reappointed him. An appeals court this month overturned the lower court's ruling, and Tarasyuk is now challenging that decision.

Yanukovych's office said in a statement that prosecutors should stop Tarasyuk's activity, "which is harming the interests of the state, negatively reflecting on Ukraine's image, and influencing the results of activity by the Cabinet of Ministers in the sphere of foreign politics and foreign economic relations."

Yanukovych's appeal came after Tarasyuk made an official visit to the Czech Republic on Monday, a trip the prime minister insisted was not authorized by his office. During the visit, Tarasyuk met with his Czech counterpart and gave a talk entitled, "Ukraine on the path to NATO and the EU," the Foreign Ministry said.

Tarasyuk's views in support of NATO membership and shaking off Russian influence are in line with Yushchenko's policies, but they contrast sharply with Yanukovych's Russian-leaning approach.

Yanukovych's office said Yanukovych did not approve Tarasyuk's vacation, which he interrupted to make the visit to the Czech Republic, nor the trip itself.

"In this way, Borys Tarasyuk can't be considered an official figure," the statement said.

The Foreign Ministry said it informed Yanukovych about the visit in a letter last Wednesday and the trip had been approved by Yushchenko.

"Therefore it is precisely this artificially inflated horror around [Tarasyuk's] visit that is harming Ukraine's international image," the ministry said in a statement.

Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz, a Yanukovych ally, defended the appeal.

"The situation is absurd. It's undermining the authority of the country and the prime minister's reaction in this case, in my view, was appropriate," he said. In the struggle with Yushchenko, Yanukovych appears to have the stronger hand, particularly after the parliament last week approved a new law outlining the powers of the Cabinet.

Yushchenko had vetoed the measure, saying it undermined the balance of power between the president and ministers, but lawmakers overrode his veto. The law greatly weakens the president's constitutional right to appoint the foreign and defense ministers.