Ukraine's biggest opposition faction on Tuesday started procedures to impeach President Viktor Yushchenko, and also called for the dismissal of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's government.
"We demand the immediate resignation of the government and the start of procedures to impeach the president," Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of the Party of Regions, said, addressing an extraordinary session of parliament devoted to the current gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. He was supported by the Ukrainian Communist Party.
Yushchenko, whose popularity has slumped to 2.4 percent according to the results of a poll published Monday, did not attend the Supreme Rada session. Tymoshenko was, however, present.
Russia cut off shipments of natural gas to Ukraine after talks on outstanding debt and a gas price for 2009 broke down Jan 1. The gas conflict led to a complete breakdown in Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine, which transits around 80 percent of Russia's gas exports to EU countries.
Yanukovych said that because of the "irresponsible" position of the government, Ukraine was facing a threat to its national security, and was losing its reputation and status as a transit country. He also said the ruling 'orange' coalition had destroyed agreements with Russia that had been built up through years of hard work.
"The authorities have left Ukraine not only without gas, but without prospects as well," the former presidential rival of Yushchenko said.
Yanukovych also demanded that the government account for its actions in front of parliament, and that an investigation committee be formed to examine the gas dispute.