Ukraine parliament sacks anti-Russia Foreign Minister

ukraine mapKiev - Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday sacked Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko, a long-time Kremlin critic.

A total 250 MPs in the 450-seat house supported a motion to kick Ohyrzko out of the country's top diplomatic job.

Deputies from the pro-Russia Regions Ukraine party and the populist Block of Yulia Tymoshenko - traditional political opponents - joined to form the majority.

Ohryzko is a career diplomat holding the foreign minister post since late 2007.

Ukraine's recent efforts to accelerate movement towards NATO membership, and his open support of Georgia during the August South Ossetia war brought Ohryzko, a political ally of Ukraine's pro-Europe President Viktor Yushchenko, into repeated conflict with the Kremlin.

Yushchenko by constitutional statute must support the parliament decision with a presidential order for the sacking to take effect.

Ohryzko told reporters he had expected an attempt by pro-Russia MPs to sack him, saying "the vote certainly did not come as a surprise to me."

Parliament began consideration of a motion Ohryzko be kicked out of his job last week, after he warned Russia's ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin to moderate his criticism of the Yushchenko government, or be thrown out of Ukraine.

The outspoken Chernomyrdin prior to the parliament vote stood his ground, saying Ukraine's Foreign Ministry "shouldn't wag its tongue... but think carefully about what they say."

Official Kiev's stance towards the Kremlin is a politically explosive issue in Ukraine, where a substantial minority of voters see Russia as a critical ally and a vital source of energy and raw materials.

Yushchenko's government, brought into power after the 2004 pro- democracy Orange Revolution, has pursued a pro-Europe policies, attempting to integrate the former Soviet republic more closely into the European Union and NATO.

Yushchenko's main political rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has criticised the government's confrontational tactics with Russia, and called for "more moderate and rational relations" with Ukraine's giant northern neighbour. (dpa)