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Ukraine

Ukrainian prime minister resigns, parliament strips protest laws

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet have resigned. The news coincided with an extraordinary session of parliament to end the country's political crisis in which anti-protest laws were also stripped.

Ukrainian parliament discusses crisis

The Ukrainian government announced on Tuesday that Prime Minister Azarov, and his cabinet, had stepped down.

"I have taken a personal decision to ask the president of Ukraine to accept my resignation from the post of prime minister with the aim of creating an additional possibility for a political compromise to peacefully resolve the conflict," Azarov said in a statement as reported by the news agency AFP.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych later accepted his resignation and that of his cabinet.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Azarov's resignation sent a positive message.

"The prime minister's resignation could be a first step in the search for a political compromise," Steinmeier said at a press conference Tuesday.

Parliament scraps ban

Shortly after the news, the parliament voted 361-2 to strip laws agreed to on January 16 that had sharply infringed on the liberty of Ukrainians to protest.

Earlier Tuesday, Ukrainian lawmakers began holding an extraordinary session of parliament to debate ways of ending two months of deadly political unrest after President Viktor Yanukovych gave in to a key opposition demand to abolish the draconian anti-protest laws. The president also offered to bring the opposition into the government during the four-hour meeting late Monday, but leaders of the protest movement rejected that, Justice Minister Elena Lukash said.

In a statement on the presidential website, Lukash said that in the meeting Monday between top opposition figures and Yanukovych, "a political decision was made on scrapping the laws of January 16, which aroused much discussion."

During Monday's meeting, the opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk had rejected an offer extended by Yanukovych on Saturday for the post of prime minister. Yatsenyuk's fellow opposition leaders, the boxing champion-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko and the nationalist Oleg Tyagnybok, were also present at the talks.

Tuesday's extraordinary session of parliament will address a list of opposition demands, including constitutional reforms to take away some of Yanukovych's sweeping powers and bolster the government's role. Many see the session as a make-or-break moment, with reports emerging that the government has mulled declaring emergency rule should talks fail.

US Vice President Joe Biden called Yanukovych on Monday and warned him that "declaring a state of emergency or enacting other harsh security measures would further inflame the situation and close the space for a peaceful resolution."

mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

DW.DE

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