Ukrainian prime minister submits resignation

8:47 AM, Jan 28, 2014   |    comments
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KIEV, Ukraine (USATODAY.com) - Ukraine's parliament voted Tuesday to repeal harsh anti-protest laws just hours after Prime Minister Mykola Azarov submitted his resignation in a bid to end anti-government protests that have gripped the country since November.

"To create additional opportunities for the social and political compromise and for the sake of finding a peaceful end to the conflict, I decided to ask the president to accept my resignation," Azarov said in a statement on a government website.

But the move is unlikely to appease protesters, who appeared to be unsatisfied with Azarov's decision to step down.

"The (people's) demand is that every member of the current authority resigns from every position," said protester Inga Vyshnevska, from Kiev. "It's not just about Azarov."

Anti-government, pro-Western street demonstrations have been taking place in Kiev since November 21 after President Viktor Yanukovych shelved a long-planned political and economic treaty with the European Union and accepted a bailout from Russian President Vladimir Putin instead.

While the protests had been largely peaceful, they turned violent last week as protesters clashed with police, causing the deaths of at least three protesters, according to police, although demonstrators say it was up to five.

Still, despite the move by the parliament and the prime minister's resignation, which is expected to be accepted by President Yanukovych, some protesters vowed to continue to take to the streets even if the entire cabinet resigns, saying that other political reforms must also take place.

"I'm much more concerned about the arrested and missing protesters and about what will happen to those responsible (for arrests and missing people)," said Igor Almazov, another protester from Kiev.

"And about the early presidential elections and the changes in the constitution," he added.

Opposition leaders said Azarov's resignation was politically motivated ahead of a no confidence vote against the cabinet, scheduled to take place later on Tuesday.

"The vote on (the) cabinet's resignation was on the parliament's agenda today," said Vitaly Klitschko, an opposition party leader and former heavy-weight boxing champion, speaking to the press in parliament on Tuesday. "I'm sure that Azarov did this to save himself. What is going on at the streets is the result of this cabinet's work."

President Yanukovych offered the position of prime minister to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of the opposition's top figures, last week, although the leader turned down the offer on Monday.

In addition, the president promised amnesty for dozens of arrested protesters if they were to leave the streets and vacate several occupied buildings, including Kiev's city hall.

Despite the concessions, analysts said demonstrations are unlikely to come to a halt.

"The people went out on the street two months ago to reach three essential goals: resignation of the government, putting back on track the European integration by signing an association agreement with Europe, and the early parliamentary and presidential elections," said Orysia Lutsevich, a research fellow at London-based policy institute Chatham House.

"Since the government started to repress the protest, with torture, deaths, people missing, activists in jail, the demand for early parliamentary and presidential elections have become number one," she added.

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