President accepts Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's resignation after Ukraine repeals anti-protest laws

Premier says he wants to encourage 'social-political compromise'

Ukraine's president has accepted Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's resignation just hours parliament repealed its controversial anti-protest laws.

President Viktor Yanukovych accepted his resignation in a statement relased today. However, he has asked Mr Azarov to stay on in an acting role until a new government is formed.

The vote on Tuesday to repeal the anti-protest laws came hours after Prime Minister Mykola Azarov submitted his resignation. This morning parliament opened a special session to vote on whether to repeal anti-protest laws imposed last month, which fuelled clashes between anti-government protesters and police.

In a statement this morning on the government website, Mykola Azarov offered his resignation in order to encourage what he called “social-political compromise.”

"Today the most important thing is to preserve the unity and integrity of Ukraine. This is far more important than any personal plans or ambitions. That is why I have taken this decision," he said.

Because of Ukraine's constitution, if the President accepts his resignation, then the whole government resigns.   

Anti-government protesters clash with policemen in Kiev on Friday night as the protests continue in Ukraine Anti-government protesters clash with policemen in Kiev on Friday night as the protests continue in Ukraine
Ukraine has been gripped by protests for two months and the crisis was aggravated in recent days after protesters and police clashed violently. Protests began on 21 November when President Viktor Yanukovych chose closer ties with Russia and spurned a political and trade agreement with the EU.

On Monday, President Viktor Yanukovych offered to give opposition leaders top government posts, make amendments to the constitution, and allow an amnesty for detained protesters.

The prime minister's resignation would remove one of the most unpopular figures among the opposition and repealing the anti-protest laws would remove a major aggravating factor in the crisis. But they do not meet all opposition demands, which include Mr Yanukovych's resignation.

Ukraine: Protesters cede control of Justice Ministry in Kiev

In addition, Mr Yanukovych says an amnesty for dozens of protesters arrested in the demonstrations will only be implemented only if protesters leave the streets and vacate buildings that they have occupied. Ending the protests without having other demands met appears unlikely.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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