Ukraine PM, cabinet resign amid unrest

Kiev, Jan 29: Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned Tuesday, with the country’s parliament scrapping draconian anti-protest moves in a bid to end a two-month standoff with demonstrators.

The decision on the protests laws was made during a special parliamentary session Tuesday, shortly before Azarov offered to step down to ease tensions between protesters and the government, AlJazeera reported.

President Viktor Yanukovych accepted Prime Minister Azarov and his cabinet’s resignations, BBC reported.

Azarov, 66, known as a loyal lieutenant of President Yanukovich, tendered his resignation as parliament met for an emergency session to work out a deal which could satisfy the opposition and end the unabated street protests.

He offered to step down as prime minister to create “social and political compromise”.

“To create additional opportunities for social and political compromise and for a peaceful solution to the conflict,” said Azarov in his resignation statement adding: “I made a personal decision to ask the president of Ukraine to accept my resignation as prime minister of Ukraine.”

The government had “done everything to ensure the peaceful resolution of the conflict” and would do “everything possible to prevent bloodshed, an escalation of violence and violation of citizens’ rights”, he further said.

The protests have spread across Ukraine in recent days, even to President Yanukovych’s stronghold in the east.

Official buildings in several cities have been occupied, and Tuesday saw the interior ministry report that protesters had stabbed and wounded three policemen in Kherson city, one of whom later died.

In total, at least five people have been killed in violence linked to the protests.

The antipathy towards Azarov grew after the protests started in November, when he described demonstrators as extremists. He was also seen as being responsible for the use of force by police.

Opposition leaders, who have also called for the removal of the president, described the moves of Tuesday as “a step to victory”.

Earlier Tuesday, the parliament — holding an emergency debate on the crisis — voted by 361 to two to repeal the protest legislation, which among other measures banned the wearing of helmets by protesters and the blockading of public buildings.

The law had helped fuel the demonstrations which began in Independence Square in the capital, Kiev, after Yanukovych pulled out of a planned trade deal with the European Union last November in favour of a $15bn bailout from Russia to strengthen the ailing public finances.

IANS