Ukraine ruling party demands govt reshuffle

December 17, 2013 - 8:04:08 am

Protesters rest in a makeshift camp set up by the Ukrainian opposition in the centre of Kiev yesterday.

KIEV: Ukraine’s ruling party demanded yesterday a sweeping cabinet overhaul in a sign that the authorities were feeling the pressure of month-long protests and seeking to end a crisis sparked by a rejected EU pact.

President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to scrap a historic EU agreement and subsequent police violence against protesters sparked the largest demonstrations in the ex-Soviet country since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Yesterday’s announcement by Yanukovych’s Regions Party appears to be a move to appease the opposition after the first direct talks between the president and three main opposition leaders failed on Friday to defuse Ukraine’s deepest crisis in a decade.

Yanukovych had tried to meet two top opposition demands by promising to amnesty those previously detained at rallies and sacking several senior officials over the police’s use of force.

But the pro-EU opposition has dismissed the moves as half-measures and is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov as well as early presidential and parliamentary polls.

“We have put forward a demand before Azarov to reformat the government by 90 percent,” ruling party lawmaker Anna German said after yesterday’s talks with Azarov. 

“Azarov said that he will today let the position of the faction be known to the president and conclusions will certainly be made,” she told reporters after the closed-door meeting attended by the entire cabinet.  German added that Azarov’s own resignation was not discussed.

But opposition leaders appeared implacable a day after gathering nearly 300,000 supporters on Kiev’s iconic Independence Square—the heart of the 2004 pro-democracy revolt.

“We believe that Viktor Yanukovych has made no step toward the resignation of the government and we are awaiting the president’s decision regarding this cabinet,” said protest leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

The president’s parliamentary representative Yuriy Miroshnychenko said the details and timing of any reshuffle have yet to be hammered out. “An emotional conversation based on principles was held. We have to take the decisive steps necessary to solve the problems,” he told reporters.

But there were signs that pressure was also growing on Yanukovych from Ukraine’s powerful business leaders whose support is instrumental to any government.

Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov — believe to control a large group of lawmakers in the Regions Party’s parliamentary faction — in a rare statement Friday called for talks and expressed sympathy with the protest movement.

“It depends on the oligarchs and particularly on Akhmetov whether it will be possible to influence Yanukovych so that he removes Azarov,” said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.


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