KIEV – Ukraine’s prime minister offered his resignation Tuesday to help bring about an end to more than two months of street protests that turned deadly last week and have taken over government buildings across the nation.
“In order to create additional possibilities for compromise for the sake of the peaceful resolution of the conflict, I’ve taken a personal decision to ask the president to accept my resignation,” Mykola Azarov said in a statement on the Cabinet’s website. “The conflict in Ukraine is threatening the country’s social and economic development.”
President Viktor Yanukovych is struggling to contain unrest that’s spread from Kiev to other cities across the nation of 45 million people, a key transit route for Russian energy supplies to Europe. Lawmakers were meeting Tuesday to address the opposition’s demand that a bill curbing protest activity be repealed. Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk has twice rejected an offer from Yanukovych to take his post in the last four days.
Yanukovych must approve Azarov’s exit and name his replacement under the current constitution. The opposition is seeking to revise the charter, possibly reverting to the 2004 version under which parliament picks the prime minister. Azarov’s departure means his Cabinet must also be replaced.
Volodymyr Oliynyk, a lawmaker from Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions, said the president could still reject Azarov’s resignation, Interfax reported.
Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, said the move “isn’t as straightforward as it looks,” calling it only “a step toward victory,” the news service said.
“A big question mark is that there is no clarity on who might replace the current government,” Serhiy Yahnych and Yevgeniy Orudzhev, analysts at BNP Paribas SA’s Ukrsibbank in Kiev, said in an email. “If the opposition declines to make part of a new government, we would not exclude a crackdown of protests.”
Riot police surrounded parliament as lawmakers gathered for Tuesday’s emergency session, which started at 10 a.m. A break was called shortly afterward until noon. Justice Minister Olena Lukash backed away Tuesday morning from a threat to call for a state of emergency after demonstrators vacated her headquarters in Kiev and opposition leaders rejected a weekend power-sharing offer.
Anti-government activists continue to occupy the agriculture and energy ministries.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged Yanukovych in a phone call Monday to pull back riot police, repeal anti-protest laws and work with opposition groups to end the standoff, the White House said.
Fights broke out among deputies on Jan. 16, when pro- Yanukovych lawmakers pushed through a bill to criminalize erecting tents in public places and occupying government buildings, and allowed the authorities to keep closer tabs on mobile-phone use.
“A political decision was taken to annul the laws adopted on Jan. 16,” Lukash said. “The two sides agreed to vote on the amnesty law. We insist on an obligatory condition. The amnesty will only take effect if all seized buildings and roads are given up.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.