President Yanukovich and his government are in an increasingly difficult position as violence escalates and spreads across the whole country, Ben Aris, editor of Business New Europe, told RT.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov and his cabinet, according to the presidential website. The cabinet will continue to work until a new government is formed.
RT: Azarov said he was resigning for the sake of a peaceful resolution to the current crisis. Do you believe his stepping down will be enough to calm protesters and stop the violence?
Ben Aris: I’m not sure it will be. Clearly the government is looking for options, for ways of implicating (of blockading) the opposition. The violence has been escalating, it spread into the regions, the whole country is in an uprising, so Yanukovich and his government are in an increasingly difficult position and they are trying to cool tempers. But the opposition has said time and time again that they will stop short of nothing but new elections. Yatsenuyk, one of the troika leaders, has already refused the job of prime minister, so the question who is going to take over remains open. I’m pretty sure none of the opposition leaders will step into this role if they are offered the job.
RT: The protests in Kiev have been ongoing for two months, with the opposition demanding the Prime Minister's resignation from the outset. So why did he wait until now to do it?
BA: Up until now there have been clashes between principles: on the one side, the opposition says we have a right to protest, on the other side, the government says “We are the elected government and we have a right to rule the country”. But the things went to a new level at the weekend when opposition supporters started to take on regional governments. It is outside the law now, outside the constitution. In fact, you have a straight power clash, a coup d'état in a sense, that other people take regional governments. So Yanukovich is finding himself increasingly put up against the wall, in a sense, that in order to resolve this one of the options is to put the army in and nobody wants that. Indeed, the army took themselves out of the equation by declaring their neutrality yesterday, which is good news, as this means the bloodiest solution of this won’t happen. But his options are being reduced and I think this is an offer on his part to find some kind of compromise so as to end the conflict on the street.
RT: Some experts are already suggesting that without Azarov in the government, President Yanukovich is now essentially a 'lame duck' - would you agree with that?
BA: The government can work for another two months without a prime minister and under the new constitution introduced in 2004, most of the power remains with the president. But certainly the government looks less legitimate without a proper prime minister at the top. Yanukovich is clearly in charge of everything. For the opposition it will be even less acceptable, a less legitimate government. But it does mean that his authority has been reduced and destroys the whole politics of the situation into chaos.
RT: The Prime Minister's resignation was not the only demand from the opposition - a snap presidential election is also on their list. Should we expect concessions from the President on that too?
BA: I think that’s the last thing he is going to agree to. He is going to try everything else before he actually agrees to elections. But the country remains split. You have to remember that the last polls saw roughly 50% of the country supporting the opposition and 42% supporting Yanukovich. And his ratings have gone a little bit up recently. The question is if he went to a second round, he’ll probably lose to the opposition, and therefore, I think Yanukovich is going to try to avoid having elections until schedule which is February 2015, if he can get away with them.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.