Ukraine's parliament voted to fire the government today over President Viktor Yushchenko's gas accord with Russia, as divisions persist about the nation's ties to its former Soviet partner a year after the Orange Revolution.
The vote was passed by 250 of the assembly's 450 members, who said they were upset the government signed an agreement that more than doubles the price the country pays.
The move raises the possibility of a constitutional crisis in Ukraine, the main gateway for Russian gas shipments to Europe, before March 26 parliamentary elections. Yushchenko, who is on a visit to Kazakhstan, said the decision contradicts the constitution and the government said it will challenge it.
The possibility of a constitutional crisis? This is the fact of a constitutional crisis. It makes everything unclear. Who's really in charge now?
UPDATE: Tymoshenko last night said that there is an agreement in Parliament to put Yanukovych in as Prime Minister. That ought to be interesting if it's true. He smiles a lot these days. Maybe that will help.
All I can say is that it is the missteps of the government that has brought Ukraine to this. You've got to talk to the people to tell them what you're doing and why. A lot of what has happened could have been been eased in a bit more if they had communicated what was going on. But Yuschenko has not done this for much of anything. One news organization here said that the government had no strategy to get any information out on the gas crisis and that created a vacuum that Russia filled and dominated. The only thing going for Ukraine in that whole thing was that, in the end, Russia is not trusted by Europe. (Must be some of that old time Russophobia. More on that later.)
And that has been true for everything. There is no strategy to get the government's position out there. It mostly goes by default. And rumor mills here fill the space and are pretty effective at moving things around, so you've got no governrment position being made in public and rumors floating around that just sit there. (Can they float and sit?)
One that we heard recently is that Yuschenko has taken over Marinsky Palace for his own personal residence. This isn't true but it is out there and plays into the "these guys are no better than all the other guys who have pillaged before" point of view that seems to dominate right now.
Anyway, we'll keep on this.