Ousted Prime Minster Yulia Tymoshenko - the beloved blond-braided heroine of Ukraine's mass protests - signaled Friday she will join the opposition, making her a formidable challenger to the president who fired her governmentIn her first public comments since her dismissal Thursday, Tymoshenko said she and President Viktor Yushchenko, who protested side by side last year in the Orange Revolution that swept them to power, are no longer allies.
``Today we are two different teams,'' she said in a live televised speech. ``I think these two teams will go their own way.''
Ukrainians growing disillusioned with Yushchenko have been waiting to hear whether the popular Tymoshenko would challenge him in upcoming elections.
In dismissing Tymoshenko, the president accused her government of being too embroiled in internal bickering. While she blamed Yushchenko's inner circle - and not him - for her sacking, she added her voice to those who have accused his regime of corruption.
Looking straight into the camera, she said Yushchenko had demanded she extend a hand to the rest of his team. ``But how can I promise a hand to them? Their hands are busy. They are constantly stealing something from the state,'' she said.
Calling the recent developments terrible, she said she initially hoped to find a ``solution'' with Yushchenko but that she ``failed to find understanding with Yushchenko's environment, with his team.''
``It is a great pain for me. It is the biggest moral trauma of my life,'' she said. ``Until the last minute, I made every effort to keep our unity so that it would not break down, so the ideas of our Orange Revolution would not dissolve.''
Tymoshenko had rallied the crowds last year in Kiev's Independence Square, motivating hundreds of thousands to carry the Orange Revolution and Yushchenko to election victory. Now, almost a year later, all eyes were again on her, waiting to see whether she would remain loyal to Yushchenko or join the opposition.
Despite announcing her break from him, she refused to blame him directly for the governmental upheaval. ``I am sure it is not the president, it is his team,'' she said.