Ukraine's former president, Leonid Kuchma, gave his support to the troubled administration of Viktor Yushchenko at the weekend, in what analysts said was a signal that opponents of the Orange Revolution could be brought into the new government.
Mr. Kuchma, making his first public intervention in politics since he left office in January under a cloud of allegations of corruption and election fraud, also endorsed Yuri Yekhanurov, acting prime minister, who was appointed by Mr. Yushchenko on Thursday after he sacked the government of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Mr. Kuchma met Mr. Yekhanurov - a minor figure in Orange revolution - in Dnipropetrovsk, eastern Ukraine on Saturday. They greeted each other with broad smiles and kisses on the cheek. The meeting, though brief, was in sharp contrast to relations between the two political camps last winter when Mr. Yushchenko and Mr. Kuchma held tense negotiations under the watch of foreign mediators and Yushchenko supporters stood face-to-face with armed police under Mr Kuchma's command.
Mr. Kuchma on Saturday called on his former supporters - who hold about half the seats in parliament - to back Mr. Yushchenko's efforts to form a new government. "Don't aggravate the situation," he said, reports Financial Times.
According to CBC, Kuchma's son-in-law, who had owned the factory, accused the government of stripping him of his assets only to hand them to his competitors. Viktor Pinchuk rallied his supporters outside the factory, and riot police were called in. Yushchenko eventually intervened, praising the court decision as valid but scolding his government for getting dragged into a feud between two business groups.
"I don't want another such Friday in my life," he said, referring to Sept. 2, when he intervened in the Nikopol crisis. "It is not because of two centers working in Ukraine but because one centre acted against the rules."
Tymoshenko has insisted that she did nothing wrong.
Nikopol, which the Ukrainian court ruled had been illegally privatized in 2003, serves at least 15 of the world's largest steel producers including U.S. Steel Corp. and Germany-based ThyssenKrupp. It was considered one of the crown jewels of Pinchuk's holdings.
Yushchenko also criticized his former ally for her populist moves during her government's seven-month tenure. "The ideas of Independence Square started becoming just a legend," he said.
Yushchenko said the new government must adopt a more pragmatic course. "We are drowning in promises and in PR," he said.