Ukraine PM Quits as Stage is Set for Early Poll
by VOA News July 24, 2014
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has announced he is resigning, amid the break-up of the country's ruling coalition in parliament.
Yatsenyuk made the announcement Thursday, hours after two major political parties in the ruling coalition pulled out. Usually mild-mannered and even-keeled, he expressed frustration over parliament's failure to pass crucial energy legislation and increase army financing as the county battles pro-Russia separatists in its east and tries to deal with the aftermath of a plane downing that killed 298 people.
Referring to protests that ousted the previous government under president Viktor Yanukovych, he said Ukraine's politicians risk losing the hearts and minds of the thousands who protested for months in the Maidan (Kyiv's central square) choosing a European course over continued subservience to Moscow.
But Yatsenyuk, a central figure in talks with the European Union and the United States, will not be able to leave office immediately as he is expected to continue in his duties until a new prime minister and government are installed, observers say.
Majority coalition break-up
Hours earlier, lawmakers set the stage for early parliamentary elections to be held in Ukraine later this year.
Members of parliament, mainly from two parties, dissolved a majority coalition, opening the way for President Petro Poroshenko to call an early vote, long demanded by many politicians and activists.
Ukraine's current legislature is viewed by many in the country as a remnant of the pro-Moscow regime of president Viktor Yanukovych who was ousted in February amid massive anti-government protests.
Poroshenko, who was overwhelmingly elected in May, welcomed the break-up of the coalition saying that early parliamentary elections will give Ukrainians the opportunity of a "full reset."
"Society wants a full reset of state authorities," Poroshenko said in a statement, adding the move showed that those who decided to quit the coalition were acting on the will of the people.
One nationalist lawmaker said an early poll will cleanse parliament of "Moscow agents."
"We believe that in the current situation, a parliament which protects state criminals, Moscow agents, which refuses to strip immunity from those people who are working for the Kremlin, should not exist,'' said Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Svoboda (Freedom) party, one of the two that left the majority coalition.
In Ukraine, lawmakers enjoy immunity from prosecution.
Elections are expected to be held in October.
Amid reports of continued fighting in the country's east, Ukraine's military says it is pressing on with a push-back of rebels into one of their main strongholds of Donetsk, with officials saying separatist fighters are abandoning positions outside the city.
``We are noticing the further strengthening... of attack positions and defense, as well as the movement of armored vehicles into towns around Donetsk, in Horlivka and Ilovaisk,'' the Ukrainian military said in a statement Thursday.
The sound of artillery fire echoed in the south and northwest of Donetsk with one district reportedly without electricity, due to damaged substations, local officials said.
Meanwhile, remote-controlled explosive devices have been found in a school in the city of Slovyansk, formerly held by rebels, a Ukrainian security official said.
Authorities assume rebels were planning to detonate them when children are scheduled to return to school in early September, said Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council at a briefing Thursday.
Commenting on two Ukrainian military jets downed Wednesday, Lysenko softened earlier accusations that one of them may have been shot down with a missile fired from Russia. Kyiv was "not accusing anyone," but only considering possible scenarios, he said. He also said that the jets' pilots had survived.
A freelance journalist working for CNN has been abducted in eastern Ukraine, the latest in a string of attacks on media workers in recent weeks.
The U.S. network made Anton Skiba's kidnapping public Thursday, two days after armed separatists allegedly took him from a hotel room in rebel-held Donetsk.
Skiba said in a brief phone call with CNN on Wednesday that he was being questioned at the headquarters of the Donetsk security services.
The network said it had not immediately publicized Skiba's abduction as efforts were made since Tuesday to obtain his release.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt wrote on Twitter Thursday that the intimidation of journalists in Donetsk must stop.
At least 13 other journalists have been injured or detained while working in eastern Ukraine since early July, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
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