President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday dismissed Ukraine's top prosecutor less than a week after he launched investigations against a presidential ally, deepening the confusion in the former Soviet republic.
Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun had also been fired by Yushchenko's predecessor but fought the dismissal and got his job back.
Earlier this week, Piskun launched two investigations targeting Petro Poroshenko, a close ally of the president and former head of the security and defense council.
Piskun also refused to rule out an inquiry into the financing of last year's Orange Revolution that brought Yushchenko to power. Ukraine's Communist Party alleged that Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky living in self-imposed exile in London contributed millions.
The burst of activity from Piskun's office came after the appointment of one of the prosecutor's fiercest critics to the post of justice minister. The new minister, Serhiy Holovatiy, called for Piskun's ouster.
"The president signed the dismissal order," Yushchenko's chief-of-staff Oleh Rybachuk said. Asked the reason, he answered: "There are more than enough."
"We probably saved Piskun from having to open a case against himself. ... He's been very busy the past few days," said Rybachuk, who is known for his sarcastic humor.
In 2003, Piskun was fired by then-President Leonid Kuchma, but fought the dismissal in court and won reinstatement. Yushchenko kept him on after winning the presidency in January.
Kuchma had accused Piskun of trying to politicize the office.
Piskun, however, insisted at the time that he was fired because he had come close to making key arrests in the 2000 killing of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, a murder that Kuchma's critics accused him of ordering.
But many of Yushchenko's Orange Revolution supporters complained that Piskun was not committed to solving Gongadze's killing or prosecuting former administration officials.
They accused him of bungling the questioning of former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, who many believed could have provided evidence in the Gongadze case.
Kravchenko was found dead in what was ruled a suicide hours before he was to have been questioned by prosecutors last March.
Yushchenko's 8-month-old government has been battered by corruption allegations, political infighting and economic problems.
In September he fired his entire Cabinet, whose members largely came from allies who stood with him at Independence Square in the Orange Revolution that forced a new election after a fraudulent earlier ballot.
Analysts had suggested that if fired, Piskun could become a prominent ally of ousted Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was ousted by Yushchenko in September's mass dismissals.