President Viktor Yushchenko should turn to an entirely new team of technocrats, not politicians, to form the next government, Parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said Sept. 16.

He also warned that the opposition - bolstered by the addition of some of Yushchenko's former allies - will look for ways to undermine and perhaps even remove the president.

"These attempts are only beginning," Lytvyn told The Associated Press in an interview.

"I can predict what attempts there will be to direct political events. First is the process of criticizing and discrediting the president, with a reaction in response," Lytvyn said. Then "activity directed toward putting obstacles in the way of forming the Cabinet of Ministers and organizing the work of the Cabinet. Third will be an attempt to destroy parliament, which is the basis for society."

Yushchenko has tapped a Russian-born technocrat, Yuriy Yekhanurov, to be acting prime minister, and his confirmation vote before parliament is expected next week.

But Lytvyn, who is widely respected in Ukraine for his efforts to help mediate during last year's election crisis, predicted a tough battle for Yekhanurov to win the necessary 226 votes. He said Yekhanurov stood no chance of coming close to Tymoshenko's record-breaking 373 votes, suggesting Yushchenko's new candidate might have only a handful of votes to spare "at a maximum."

Lytvyn made it clear he continues to back Yushchenko, and said the president must be sure now to appoint professionals who put running the country above their own political ambitions. As for the former ministers, Lytyvn suggested it would be better if they bow out - and called for all new appointees to pledge not to participate in the March elections.

"If they return their definition of 'new power' will go away," he said. "They will be old power. And just as before, when they strongly criticized the previous power, the next generation of politicians will have all grounds to criticize the 'new-old ministers."'

Lytvyn said state work will be paralyzed if the government consists of people focused on the election.

"I would propose that those who will be recommended to enter the new government pledge not to take part in the election campaign," Lytvyn said. "It would allow them to concentrate on practical work. Otherwise, no work will be done, and ministers will serve political interests and political structures and not Ukrainian society."

He acknowledged, however, that such an idea was unrealistic. Lytvyn suggested there was no end in sight to Ukraine's political crisis because the opposition would redouble efforts to remove Yushchenko. But he predicted none would be successful because the procedural process of impeachment is so complicated.

Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's first president who is now an opposition leader, accused Yushchenko's campaign team this week of having accepted $15 million (12 million euros) from Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. He suggested that, if proven, impeachment proceedings could be launched.

Yushchenko's top aides strongly denied the allegation. In an interview with Ukrainian media in the United States, Yushchenko said his campaign finances had been checked repeatedly and could be checked again.

Lytvyn, a one-time chief of staff to former President Leonid Kuchma who has been touted as a possible future presidential contender, said he would try to ensure parliament played the role of the "guarantor of stability." He said he hoped to return to the parliamentary speaker's seat after the March elections.

Lytvyn's People's Party currently boasts 44 lawmakers, which would make a coalition with either Yushchenko's Our Ukraine or Tymoshenko's bloc a necessity if he hoped to win back the parliamentary speaker's post. Lytvyn was careful to avoid directly criticizing either Tymoshenko or Yushchenko personally.

But he said he was disappointed that this latest crisis erupted just as Ukraine's image was starting to change.

"Political forces have damaged Ukraine. Their aim was to strike out at each other but once again they struck at Ukraine, humiliating her," Lytvyn said. "We were just starting to be understood, starting to be respected."


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