Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has accepted the resignation of PM Nikolay Azarov and his cabinet, according to a decree on the presidential website. The cabinet will continue to work until a new government is formed.
The prime minister submitted his resignation earlier Tuesday, explaining that his move was motivated by efforts to peacefully resolve the current crisis in the country.
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“For the purpose of creating additional possibilities of social and political compromise, for the peaceful solution of the conflict, I’ve made a personal decision to ask the Ukrainian president to accept my resignation from the post of prime minister,” Azarov’s statement reads.
Azarov described the current crisis in Ukraine as a threat to the economic and social development of the country, as well as a threat to each and every Ukrainian citizen.
“During the standoff, the government has done everything for a peaceful solution of the conflict,” Azarov said. “We’ve been doing everything not to let bloodshed occur, to prevent the violence escalating, not to have human rights infringed upon. The government has made sure the economy and social security have functioned in extreme conditions.”
Azarov, one of the longest-serving politicians in Ukraine, said he can “honestly look into the eyes of each of his compatriots” and that he has always acted in the best interests of the country.
“Throughout all of these years I have been doing everything for Ukraine to be able to normally develop as a democratic European country. I have made decisions and taken upon myself responsibility in the interest of Ukraine.”
Azarov said he was grateful to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the country’s MPs for their cooperation. He also thanked all of the Ukrainian citizens who have supported him and approved of the decisions made by his Cabinet.
"The most important today is to preserve the unity and integrity of Ukraine. That’s much more important than anybody’s personal plans and ambitions,” the PM said.
Azarov has been prime minister since March 2010. He retained the post in December 2012, when the new parliament was elected.
He’s been among Ukrainian political elite since the early 2000s, having served as first deputy prime minister and finance minister.
Azarov’s Cabinet survived a vote of no confidence in December 2013. The no-confidence motion was submitted by three opposition parties – Homeland (Batkivshchina), Strike (Udar), and Liberty (Svoboda). The text of the document accused the Cabinet of the “betrayal of the Ukrainian people” through the government’s suspension of talks on EU integration, the opposition said.
The opposition reacted to the resignation with enthusiasm, but said that they expect it to be a trick.
The leader of the opposition Strike (Udar) party, Vitaly Klitchko, said that the PM’s resignation was a “face-saving” gesture.
“Today the issue of the government’s resignation and its responsibility is on the agenda,” Klitchko said, Interfax-Ukraine reported. “I’m sure [Azarov’s] resignation has something behind it. He knows he’s done everything to save face.”
Klitchko also described Azarov’s move as “a step toward victory” for the opposition.
An MP from the opposition Strike (Udar) party, Pavel Rozenko, said that Azarov’s resignation is not enough to resolve the political crisis in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the leader of the nationalist Liberty (Svoboda) opposition party, Oleg Tyagnibok, said that Azarov’s decision showed that the authorities were afraid of the people.
A senior Russian parliamentary official called Azarov’s resignation a “courageous step.”
“Nikolay Azarov’s resignation from the post of prime minister of Ukraine is a courageous civic act. Azarov worked for many years on the growth of the national economy of Ukraine, worked successfully for the welfare of the Ukrainian people. And the fact that now he made such a move for the sake of a peaceful settlement of the situation in Ukraine, in order to calm the riots, the terrible fire on the Independence Square - it is certainly a deed we must treat with respect,” said Leonid Slutskiy, chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Committee for the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Anna German, an MP for the ruling Party of Regions, described Azarov’s decision as a “responsible step.”
“I believe this is a responsible step of a mature politician, who has been able to restrain his own ambition and to put the interests of the state, of the mutual understanding between the authorities and society, before his own high post,” RIA Novosti reported her as saying.