MPs desert defeated Ukraine candidate Yulia Tymoshenko

Yulia Tymoshenko on a visit to the  European People Party meeting in Meise, Belgium, 15 September Yulia Tymoshenko remains active in opposition

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Ukraine's parliament has confirmed the migration of 28 MPs from the bloc led by Yulia Tymoshenko, who was defeated in this year's presidential election.

The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc formally expelled the 28 after reports that they had sided with the coalition formed by President Viktor Yanukovich.

The bloc had won 156 seats at the 2007 polls and Mrs Tymoshenko became prime minister, heading a coalition.

But she lost office in March after a vote of no confidence.

Seven of her own MPs reportedly voted against her on that occasion.

Mr Yanukovich won the run-off round of the presidential election in February by 48.95% to 45.47% for Mrs Tymoshenko.

His victory was seen as a boost for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine after disenchantment with the 2004-05 Orange Revolution, which was led by Mrs Tymoshenko and former President Viktor Yushchenko.

New coalition

No official reason was given immediately on Tuesday for the expulsion of the 28 MPs, which was announced by the parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn.

However, Ukrainian and Russian media reports said that those expelled had either defected to the new coalition loyal to President Yanukovich, or had been suspected of disloyalty towards Mrs Tymoshenko.

The new coalition which emerged in March under Yanukovych loyalist Mykola Azarov brought together the president's Party of the Regions, the Communist Party and a bloc loyal to Mr Lytvyn.

When it was formed, it had the support of 235 MPs in the 450-seat parliament.

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