The governing coalition in Ukraine collapsed on Tuesday in a crisis brought on by Russia’s war with Georgia that raises the prospect of the country being knocked off its pro-Western course.
“I officially announce the collapse of the coalition of democratic forces,” parliament speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk told lawmakers.
“I would not call this an apocalypse. It is a challenge for democracy, but I hope we will overcome this challenge together,” he said.
Less than four years after President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko united in the “Orange Revolution” against a Moscow-backed presidential candidate, their political marriage lies in tatters.
Tensions between the president and prime minister came to a head last month following Russia’s war with Georgia, with Yushchenko’s allies accusing Tymoshenko of “high treason” for not supporting Georgia enough. Tymoshenko has rejected the charge, saying she is no Kremlin ally.
Meanwhile European officials have warned Ukraine could be the next target for interference by Russia because of the high proportion of Russian-speakers and tensions over Russia’s Black Sea fleet, based in southern Ukraine.
The prime minister is now expected to resign and start trying to build a new coalition, possibly with the pro-Russian Regions Party, which is led by former PM Viktor Yanukovych.