Ukrainian Prime Minister Resigns
The Prime Minister of the Ukraine, Mykola Azarov, resigned on Tuesday, 28 January. Some say that this was inevitable, given that a vote of no-confidence which would have taken away his authority was planned in the Parliament within a few hours. The President, Viktor Yanukovych, said that he had accepted the resignation and also dismissed the remainder of the cabinet, but called for them to stay on until after the parliament had selected a new cabinet.
While these were significant moves, they are the effects of increasing opposition to the rule of Yanukovych, which has been protested on the streets for months. It is unlikely that the resignation will prove sufficient to bring about any early resolution to the unrest.
As a further concession to the rioters, the government had already repealed many recently passed laws which restricted freedom of speech and assembly. It is thought that these laws sparked off the latest round of violence.
The protesters comprise many different right-wing factions, and have no unified leadership. The demonstrators have been occupying various government administration buildings and some of the clashes with police have involved fatalities. However, the existing occupations on Tuesday were mostly quiet, and no new buildings were stormed and taken over, even though the protesters seem to remain determined.
The government has been trying to counter the demonstrations, bussing in government supporters for a large pro-government rally. In addition, authorities have been establishing defences for existing administration buildings, erecting makeshift walls of concrete blocks around them in Odessa and Kiev.
One of the problems for Yanukovych is the threat from Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, that he would withhold promised aid. Putin had offered £9 billion as a bailout to the country, but given the current conditions this is being withheld. In a television broadcast, Putin said to his cabinet, “Let’s wait until a new government is formed in Ukraine”.
In an endeavour to cool off the situation, the Ukrainian government has been discussing the possibility of amnesty for the occupying protesters provided they vacate the government buildings peacefully. As there seems to be no coherent organization to the right-wing protesters, who have varying degrees of commitment, is unlikely that they will all agree to do so.
The protesters seem to want the early resignation of Pres. Yanukovych and early elections to replace the government. The protests originally started in November last year when Yanukovych turned his back on a plan to deepen ties with the European Union. More than half of the population favour more integration with Europe, and there is widespread resentment towards Russia amongst Ukrainians. For its part, Russia is denying that it is seeking to exert undue influence over the country.
Groups of protesters have been clashing on Wednesday, with the more militant groups refusing to vacate the buildings under current circumstances. More moderate groups such as the Svoboda party have been seeking to comply with the conditions for amnesty in order to reduce the violence. The situation remains volatile, with no easy solution in sight.