Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stepped down on Sunday following months-long political crisis that had paralysed the government and frozen the release of vital Western aid.
“Having done everything to ensure stability and make a smooth transition of power possible, I decided to step down from the post of prime minister of Ukraine,” the 41-year-old pro-Western cabinet chief said in a weekly television address.
The tough-talking prime minister’s decision comes barely two months after he survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote in his government, and after just over two years in the post.
He said President Petro Poroshenko’s party had already nominated parliament speaker Volodymyr Groysman to succeed him and that he would not stand in the way.
“From today onwards, I see my goals in a broader light than just heading the government,” said Yatsenyuk.
He vowed to push through “new election legislation, constitutional reform, legal reforms, a coalitions controlling the future government’s course, international support for Ukraine, and its membership in the European Union and Nato”.
But he failed to mention what possible role he saw for himself in Ukrainian politics or how he would achieve those goals.
Meteoric rise and fall
Yatsenyuk’s condemnation of Russia’s alleged backing of the two-year pro-Moscow uprising in eastern Ukraine and his ability to clinch a vital IMF rescue package helped his party become parliament’s second largest in October 2014 polls.
He formed a ruling coalition with the president’s bloc and several junior partners that was able to push through some tough and very unpopular belt-tightening measures prescribed by the International Monetary Fund under its $17.5 billion rescue package.
But his party’s approval rating has slumped to a mere two percent both because of the painful economic reforms and his perceived inability to tackle widespread graft.
The coalition fractured after the February 16 no-confidence vote and the prime minister’s days seemed numbered in recent weeks.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde said days after the vote that she could not see how lending to Ukraine could continue with the government in such a state of disarray.
Yatsenyuk became premier in the chaotic days that followed the February 2014 ouster of Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych, who sparked three months of protests over his shock decision to walk away from a landmark EU pact.
Yanukovych’s flight to Russia was followed a month later by the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and the April 2014 outbreak of a separatist revolt that has claimed nearly 9,200 lives and plunged Moscow’s relations with the West to a post-Cold War low.
Yatsenyuk’s resignation announcement means that Ukraine will in the coming days be headed by a brand-new government that has also vowed to pursue the current pro-Western course.
He said he will ask lawmakers to approve his resignation on Tuesday -- a vote that seems highly likely to pass.
New finance chief?
Analysts and the Ukrainian media predict that one of the most important changes in the government will probably involve the departure of finance minister Natalie Jaresko.
The US-born former state department worker and private banker has been widely praised by the West for being able to pull together a crucial debt restructuring deal in August 2015.
Jaresko said in March that she was ready to head the government under strict conditions that would give her the freedom to fight the decades-long links between politicians and a handful of powerful tycoons.
But her candidacy seemed unlikely to win the required parliamentary majority needed for confirmation and Poroshenko’s group soon to nominate 38-year-old speaker Groysman to the post.
Slovakia’s former deputy prime minister Ivan Miklos has provisionally agreed to join the new government if he is able to keep his citizenship and be given the freedom to fight corruption and pursue the plans outlined by the IMF.
Analysts believe that he will probably take Jaresko’s place.