Mykola Azarov, prime minister of Ukraine, resigned on Tuesday, hours before a planned vote of no confidence by Parliament that could have stripped him of his powers.
The resignation came shortly after the pro-government Party of Regions joined with opposition lawmakers on Tuesday to repeal most of the laws in a package of legislation restricting freedom of speech and assembly that was enacted only last week.
Together, the resignation and repeals were significant concessions by Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor F Yanukovych, as well as clear signs of the building momentum of opposition to his rule.
In a statement posted on his website, Yanukovych said he had accepted Azarov’s resignation and had signed a decree dismissing the rest of the cabinet of ministers as well. But he said Azarov and the ministers would stay on until a new cabinet is approved by Parliament.
“All of the current members of the cabinet of ministers of Ukraine continue to work in their posts and exercise the powers entrusted to them,” he said.
Yanukovych has promised other concessions as well, including an amnesty for arrested protesters and a revision of the Constitution to weaken presidential powers. Lawmakers were expected to take up those matters later on Tuesday.
Azarov had been a staunch ally of Yanukovych through the two months of protests roiling Ukraine. But neither his resignation nor the repeal of the restrictive legislation, which the opposition calls the “dictatorship laws”, were seen as likely to appease the protesters.
In Independence Square, the central plaza that has been occupied since November by demonstrators, with tents, field kitchens and a stage, reactions to Tuesday’s developments were mixed.
In a letter posted on the government website, Azarov wrote that he was resigning “for the sake of a peaceful resolution” to the civil unrest, which escalated sharply last week with the deaths of five protesters. Demonstrators occupied provincial administration buildings in at least 10 regions, sending the police fleeing through rear exits in some instances. One policeman was shot to death on a street in Kiev, far from the protest site; a nationalist group calling itself the Ukrainian Partisan Army claimed responsibility in a Facebook post.
Yanukovych had previously signaled that he would be willing to dismiss Azarov. Over the weekend, the president offered the prime ministership to the Parliamentary leader of the opposition Fatherland party, Arseniy P Yatsenyuk, who declined the offer.
ANDREW E KRAMER
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