Ukraine's parliament voted to fire Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov's government today in its first session since the cabinet agreed to pay higher prices for Russian gas and end a showdown between former Soviet republics that cut supplies of the fuel to western Europe. The vote raises the possibility of a constitutional crisis in Ukraine, the main gateway for Russian gas shipments to Europe, ahead of parliamentary elections in March. Yekhanurov may challenge the vote because it violated normal parliamentary procedures, said the government's spokeswoman, Larisa Ostrolutska.
``The parliament voted to dismiss the government without including the issue on its agenda first, Ostrolutska said via phone from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. ``Putting any issue on the agenda before having a final vote on it is required by law.''
A total of 250 lawmakers in the 450-seat parliament backed the dismissal of Yekhanurov, who was approved as premier by the parliament on Sept. 22. President Viktor Yushchenko has the power to nominate a prime minister until Ukraine's new parliament is elected in March.
``Those deputies who backed the government's dismissal today were thinking of election campaign, rather than Ukraine's interests,'' Iryna Herashchenko, Yushchenko's spokeswoman, said on the president's official Web site. ``The president and the government have done everything possible to reach a compromise in the gas dispute with Russia and defend Ukraine's economic independence.''
Ukraine depends on imports for most of its energy needs. It agreed on Jan. 4 to pay an average $95 per 1,000 cubic meters for Russian as in 2006, compared with the $50 it was previously charged, after Russian cut supplies on New Year's day. Russia supplies most of the gas consumed by Ukraine.
The government agreed to keep gas prices for residents unchanged from last year, bowing to pressure from lawmakers and canceling its earlier plan of raising prices by a quarter, Yekhanurov said in an address to the parliament earlier today.
The parliament adjourns Jan. 13 and will reconvene on Feb. 7 for its final session before the elections.