Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarov offered his resignation on Tuesday, saying he hoped the move would help bring a peaceful resolution to the crisis that has gripped the country for two months.
“The conflict situation which has come about in the country is threatening the economic and social development of Ukraine creating a threat to the whole of Ukrainian society and to each citizen,” said Azarov, adding that he had personally asked President Viktor Yanukovich to accept his resignation.
Under the constitution, the departure of the prime minister means the resignation of the entire government.
The pro-western protests in Kiev began on 21 November after Yanukovych shelved a long-planned political and economic treaty with the European Union, then accepted a huge bailout package from the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, instead. The crisis was aggravated in recent days when protesters and police clashed violently.
Azarov’s statement was released as the parliament opened a special session expected to repeal harsh anti-protest laws that were imposed this month. Those laws set off the clashes between police and protesters, in which at least three protesters died.
Azarov’s resignation has yet to be accepted by the president, but that appears to be only a formality. Yanukovych last week offered the premiership to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of the opposition’s top figures. Yatsenyuk turned down the offer on Monday.
The prime minister’s resignation would remove one of the figures the opposition most despises, and repeal of the anti-protest laws would remove a severe aggravating factor in the crisis. But the moves stop well short of the opposition’s demands, which include Yanukovych’s resignation.
Yanukovych says an amnesty for dozens of protesters arrested in the demonstrations will be implemented only if protesters leave the streets and vacate buildings they have occupied. The protests look unlikely to end unless other demands are met.