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Yushchenko fires government

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Yushchenko and Yekhanurov at a meeting in Kiev on March 5.

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Ukraine
Viktor Yushchenko

KIEV, Ukraine (CNN) -- Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko has sacked his entire 7-month-old government amid political squabbling among its members.

Several officials have resigned from the government in recent days, citing corruption. It is the first scandal under Yushchenko, who was elected after an "Orange Revolution" protesting results of the previous vote that put Yushchenko's opposition in office.

Those fired on Thursday included Prime Minister Yulia Tymoschenko. Yuriy Yekhanurov, a member of parliament, was appointed as acting prime minister.

Saying the government had lost its "team spirit," Yushchenko added that he would ask regional governor Yuri Yekhanurov to form a new Cabinet.

"I am setting before the new team one task -- the ability to work as one ... The moment is right when (the old team) have lost their team spirit," Reuters quoted Yushchenko as saying.

"We need to halt the disappointment in society and make sure that ideals (of the Orange Revolution) are not cast into doubt," he said.

Some analysts saw Yekhanurov as a stop-gap prime minister. Others said the stage was set for a show-down between the president and Tymoshenko in parliamentary elections set for March 2006. There was no immediate word from Tymoshenko herself.

"Sacking Tymoshenko also sets things up for a clash between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in the March 2006 parliamentary elections, which will split the reform camp," Tim Ash, emerging markets analyst at Bear Stearns in London, told Reuters.

"With clear evidence that the economy is slowing, Ukraine needs strong government and good coordination of economic policy," Ash said.

Local journalist Roman Olearchyk told CNN that Tymoshenko was personally almost as popular as Yushchenko so she would be a major contender in a future clash.

Yushchenko also accepted the resignation of Secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, Petro Poroshenko, a close ally who had been named in a corruption probe.

An opinion poll published Wednesday found that Yushchenko's approval ratings have been on the slide.

The poll, conducted last month by Ukraine's Razumkov think-tank before the latest corruption allegations, found that for the first time since the Orange Revolution, the percentage of Ukrainians who think the country is headed in the wrong direction exceeds those who think it's in good shape.

Forty-three percent said Ukraine was on the wrong path, a jump from the 23 percent who thought that in April.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been often rated one of the world's most corrupt countries by international anti-graft bodies.

Journalist Olga Kryzhanovska contributed to this report.

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