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Ukraine

Ukraine PM resigns as battle rages around MH17 site

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has announced the resignation of his government after two pro-Western parties left the ruling coalition. Battles have raged around the eastern city of Donetsk.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his government's resignation on Thursday, claiming the parliament could no longer work effectively and pass necessary laws.

"I am announcing my resignation in connection with the collapse of the coalition," Yatsenyuk told the parliamentary chamber.

Both the Udar (Punch) party of former boxer Vitali Klitschko and the radical nationalist Svoboda party had earlier left the government, calling for fresh elections to take place.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the move, praising the parties for allowing the electorate to have its say. "The society wants a full reset of state authorities," Poroshenko said.

The departure left Yatsenyuk's Fatherland party without the necessary number of seats for a majority coalition. However, that faction had already announced that it would welcome the dissolution of parliament. It is expected a new round of voting might purge the Ukrainian parliament of pro-Russia parties.

Early parliamentary elections have been expected since the toppling of the Moscow-backed former president Viktor Yanukovych. The standard timetable for elections would not require another vote until 2017.

On Thursday, a court in Kyiv was considering a request from the Justice Ministry to ban the Communist Party for its alleged support of separatists fighting in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Army closes in on stronghold

Meanwhile, fighting raged as government forces pressed closer to the city of Donetsk, seizing surrounding towns and villages. Rebels, who have regrouped in the city after being driven from the strategic town of Slovyansk, were said to have abandoned posts outside the city.

"We are noticing the further strengthening ... of attacking positions and defense, as well as the movement of armored vehicles into towns around Donetsk, in Horlivka and Ilovaisk," the Ukrainian military announced in a statement on Thursday.

The separatists, who accuse government forces of bombarding residential areas, brought down two fighter jets on Wednesday, close to the site where a Malaysian airliner was apparently shot down last week, killing all 298 people on board.

rc/mkg (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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