In an interview to Financial Times Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's prime minister, has accused Viktor Yushchenko, the country's president, of jeopardising both bilateral relations with Russia and western integration initiatives by labelling her a Kremlin conspirator during the collapse of their coalition last week.

In an interview with the Financial Times Ms Tymoshenko hit back at allegations that she had sided with Russia and was weak in her support for Georgia during last month's conflict between the two countries. She accused Mr Yushchenko of tarnishing her image in an attempt to score points with voters ahead of next year's presidential election.

Mr Yushchenko's party last week pulled out of the ruling coalition after Ms Tymoshenko's camp voted with Moscow-leaning parties to curtail presidential powers. Ms Tymoshenko, in turn, accused the president's party of systematically sabotaging her government.

"Pointing the finger at Moscow is stupid. The coalition collapsed not by the hand of the Kremlin, but by the president's decision," Ms Tymoshenko said, urging Mr Yushchenko to revive the coalition.

She said starting a presidential campaign "this way . . . complicated the country's plans for closer integration with Brussels and Nato".

"I well understand his hysteria because polls show his rating has sunk from 53 per cent to 5 per cent."

At an European Union-Ukraine summit tomorrow in the French town of Evian, Kiev hopes to win support for associate membership of the EU. In December Nato will review a membership action plan for Ukraine and Georgia. Both organisations are uneasy over the latest bout of political infighting in Kiev, which could complicate relations with Russia.

Ties with Moscow soured after the 2004 Orange Revolution brought Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko to power. Both have pushed to break Moscow's grip on energy supplies but Ukraine remains vulnerable, a position that will worsen if their on-off alliance turns into a cut-throat power struggle. Fears loom that a Georgia-style conflict could erupt between Ukraine and Moscow, which is staunchly against Nato's eastward expansion.

Ms Tymoshenko stressed her support for Georgia's territorial integrity but said only "balanced and harmonised" relations with Russia would avoid trouble and make Ukraine a reliable partner for the west.

"Ukraine needs peace, stability and investment."

Dismissing as "comical" allegations from the president that she had plotted with the Kremlin, she insisted she had pushed to cut Russia's grasp over Ukraine's energy sector.

She also claimed that Mr Yushchenko had protected "Russian interests" in a strategic Black Sea hydrocarbon exploration project. By cancelling the venture, "where Russian interests were camouflaged by Houston-based Vanco Energy . . . I returned Ukraine's strategic Black Sea gas reserves".

Asked if she would run for president next year, the prime minister said: "Before this I was willing to support a single candidate. After the events of last week I am seriously considering it."


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