The move came after the parliament voted overwhelmingly to annul a controversial anti-protest law.
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has accepted the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet amid continuing anti-government protests, the BBC reports. Mykola Azarov had offered to step down as prime minister to create “social and political compromise”. The protests have spread in recent days across Ukraine, even to President Yanukovych’s stronghold in the east. Official buildings in several cities have been occupied. Tuesday saw the interior ministry report that three protesters had stabbed and wounded three policemen in the southern city of Kherson, one of whom later died.
In total, at least five people have been killed in violence linked to the protests. Parliament – holding an emergency debate on the crisis – voted by 361 to 2 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 Mr Yanukovych pulled out of a planned trade deal with the EU last November in favour of a USD 15bn bailout from Russia. MPs applauded as the result was announced. There was a similar response in Kiev’s Independence Square, which remains the focal point of the demonstrations.
Parliament adjourned after the vote on the protest law and is due to discuss the issue of granting an amnesty to convicted protesters.
Mr Yanukovych offered an amnesty only if protesters cleared barricades and stopped attacking government buildings.
In his resignation statement, Prime Minister Azarov said: “To create additional opportunities for social and political compromise and for a peaceful solution to the conflict, 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 citizen’s rights”, he said.
Despite the president accepting their resignations, the cabinet can remain in their posts for 60 days until a new government is formed. President Yanukovych had already offered Mr Azarov’s job to the opposition at the weekend, proposing that Fatherland leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk take the post. Mr Yatsenyuk declined the offer.
Originally the protests were over the government’s failure to sign an EU trade deal, but the anti-protest laws added another level to the demonstrations, Al Jazeera reports. The laws punished the occupation of public buildings with up to five years in prison, outlawed protest convoys of more than five cars and banned opposition activists from wearing masks or helmets.
The president hopes their repeal, and the resignation of Azarov, will put an end to the escalating violence that saw the protests turn deadly last week.