Ukraine's former president, Leonid Kuchma, gave his support to the troubled administration of Viktor Yushchenko at the weekend, in what analysts said was a signal that opponents of the Orange Revolution could be brought into the new government, Financial Times reports.

Mr Kuchma, making his first public intervention in politics since he left office in January under a cloud of allegations of corruption and election fraud, also endorsed Yuri Yekhanurov, acting prime minister, who was appointed by Mr Yushchenko on Thursday after he sacked the government of Yulia Tymoshenko.

Mr Kuchma met Mr Yekhanurov - a minor figure in Orange revolution - in Dnipropetrovsk, eastern Ukraine on Saturday. They greeted each other with broad smiles and kisses on the cheek. The meeting, though brief, was in sharp contrast to relations between the two political camps last winter when Mr Yushchenko and Mr Kuchma held tense negotiations under the watch of foreign mediators and Yushchenko supporters stood face-to-face with armed police under Mr Kuchma's command.

Mr Kuchma on Saturday called on his former supporters - who hold about half the seats in parliament - to back Mr Yushchenko's efforts to form a new government. "Don't aggravate the situation," he said.

Mr Kuchma accused Ms Tymoshenko of using her position as prime minister to take personal revenge against him and Viktor Pinchuk, his businessman son-in-law. Mr Pinchuk was recently stripped of ownership of stakes in two big metallurgy plants that he had bought from the state when Mr Kuchma was president.

Analysts said a recent outpouring of support for Mr Yushchenko from Mr Kuchma and other former administration figures reflected new political realities in which Ms Tymoshenko had become the main proponent of change and Mr Yushchenko had become a force for stability and social peace.

Parliamentary elections next March are shaping up a three-way contest between Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Yushchenko and pro-Russian centrist and leftwing groups.

Igor Burakovsky, director of Kiev's Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting, said Mr Yushchenko was under pressure to form a new government quickly because of talks with Russia over gas supplies and a World Trade Organisation meeting at the end of the month which will look at Ukraine's bid to join at the Hong Kong summit in December. That made him more likely to choose experienced old-guard figures, Mr Burakovsky said.

Mr Yushchenko is expected to form the government after a confirmation vote in parliament on Mr Yekhanurov next week.


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