Ukraine’s prime minister resigns as coalition falls apart

4 mins read

New York Times

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Thursday that in light of recent turmoil in parliament, he is resigning his post. He scolded politicians for failing to increase army financing. (Reuters)

 Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation Thursday, creating new uncertainty in his nation at a crucial moment in its military offensive against pro-Russian rebels in the east.

The move was sure to distract Ukrainian politicians even as leaders from around the world push for unfettered access to the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down deep inside rebel-held territory. A week after the attack on the Boeing 777-200, investigators still have not been able to examine the site in a systematic manner, partly because of heavy fighting nearby.

As fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, the Obama administration said that it had new intelligence information that Russia is preparing to deliver heavier,
more powerful ground-to-ground
multiple-rocket launchers to separatist forces, and that Russian forces on their own side of the border are firing artillery at Ukrainian military positions.

Dutch military aircraft continued flying the remains of victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 from Ukraine to the Netherlands on Thursday. The Dutch and Australian governments were discussing the formation of an international protection force of military and police from countries with victims of the crash, to protect investigators who are still waiting for full access to the separatist-controlled crash site.

Yatsenyuk’s surprise resignation came after two major parties said they were withdrawing from the governing coalition. President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the coalition’s collapse, saying it bows to Ukrainian society’s desire for “a complete reload of state power.” Poroshenko later said he hoped the “entire” cabinet, presumably including Yatsenyuk, would stay on.

Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman was appointed acting prime minister following Yatsenyuk’s resignation. Groysman, 36, has been minister of regional development, and head of a commission to investigate the cause of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The political rearrangement seemed intended to pave the way for elections this fall, two years early. Poroshenko pledged wide government and electoral reforms when sworn into office last month, but many members of parliament are a holdover from the era of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and are considered resistant to reforms and the loss of influence.

Nevertheless, Yatsenyuk’s resignation threw the government into disarray at a critical juncture. Finance Minister Oleksandr Shlapak warned parliament Thursday that the military was swiftly running out of money to pay for its offensive in the east, where troops are seeking to regain control of rebel-held territory around Donetsk and Luhansk.

“As of Aug. 1, we’ll have nothing to pay the military,” Shlapak said, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, as he urged parliament to increase tax revenue.

The immediate trigger for Yatsenyuk’s resignation was the decision by the Svoboda and Udar parties earlier Thursday to pull out of the coalition government, which took over five months ago after Yanukovych was driven out of office by sustained protests. Party leaders said their intention was to force early elections.

But the collapse of the coalition, Yatsenyuk said, means that parliament would be politically hobbled as it tries to pass crucial laws on matters such as the military budget and uncertain energy supplies.

“Who wants to go to elections and simultaneously vote for unpopular laws?” he said in announcing his resignation. “Putting narrow political interests above the future of the nation is impermissible. It is a moral and ethical crime.”

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