31st Mar 2023

Ukraine PM resigns for sake of better EU ties

  • Yatsenyuk, a 41-year old economist, has led the government for the past two years (Photo:

Ukrainian prime minister Arsenyi Yatsenyuk has said he will step down for the sake of political stability, with the Dutch vote on the EU treaty aggravating the country’s political crisis.

Yatsenyuk, a 41-year old economist who has led the government since the Maidan revolution two years ago, made the announcement on Twitter and in a TV statement on Sunday (10 April).

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  • Yatsenyuk (l), Poroshenko (2nd from right) and top EU officials signed the EU association pact in Brussels in June 2014 (Photo: European Commission)

He said the crisis that forced him to go had been “created artificially”, adding that the desire to get rid of him had "blinded politicians and paralysed their political will for real change".

The comments refer to blame-games over stalled anti-corruption reforms between his party, the People’s Front, and its coalition partner, the Poroshenko bloc, which had prompted calls for Yatsenyuk to go.

"As of today, my goals are broader: new electoral law, constitutional reform, judicial reform, Ukraine's membership in the EU and Nato,” Yatsenyuk said on Sunday.

“We cannot allow destabilisation of the executive branch during a war.”

He also indicated that he was happy to support Volodymyr Groysman, the 38-year old parliamentary speaker and former mayor of the south-western city of Vinnytsia, who has been tipped for the PM job by the Poroshenko faction.

Yatsenyuk’s resignation, to be formalised this week, comes after Dutch voters said in a non-binding referendum last week that the Netherlands should block ratification of the EU-Ukraine association treaty

Dutch impact

The two events are not directly related, but the Dutch No campaign cited the political mess in Kiev as a reason to suspend closer EU-Ukraine ties.

Ukraine opposition politicians have also said the Dutch vote is an indictment of Poroshenko and Yatsneyuk.

Speaking to EUobserver from Kiev, Roman Sohn, a civil society activist and columnist for the Ukrainska Pravda online news agency, said: “The way the opposition is rocking the boat to force early elections has turned ugly.

"The results of the Dutch referendum ... will undermine the credibility of Poroshenko."

Sohn said former Ukraine PM Yulia Tymoshenko and Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko brought the Dutch referendum “into the combustible mix of local politics by bundling it together with Poroshenko’s offshore affair”, referring to Panama Papers revelations that the Ukrainian leader had created a shady offshore entity.

The Party of the Regions (PoR), representing the regime ousted by the Maidan revolution, is also climbing the polls, with 12 to 15 percent support, amid disenchantment with the post-revolutionary leaders.

The former PoR prime minister, Mykola Azarov, speaking from Moscow, said in a statement after the Dutch referendum that people voted No because the new Ukrainian elite was “ruining the economy, filling its own pockets through corruption, opening offshore bank accounts”.

In a sign of his intentions, he said that confronting Russia was a “dead-end street” for Ukraine and Europe, so instead he was seeking a “true and reliable compromise” over Ukraine’s future.

Rutte’s headache

It remains unclear how the Netherlands will react to the non-binding referendum, in which 61 percent of voters said No to the EU treaty.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told journalists in a press conference in The Hague on Friday that it would take “months” before the results of the vote would be translated into political action, “if only because the next European Council takes place end of June”.

Beyond saying that the Netherlands could not ratify the deal “as if nothing happened”, Rutte refused to disclose what options he was considering.

He said that the situation was “very complex” and that the government was now in “unchartered waters”.

The European Commission is still planning to issue a positive recommendation on granting visa-free travel for Ukrainian nationals, an EU source told the Reuters news agency.

"It may look as if we're ignoring the Dutch voters, but we have to keep our word to Ukraine, which has met the conditions," the source said.

Radicalisation risk

Sohn told EUobserver that the visa decision could be a “sweetener” for Ukrainian society.

But he said that if the EU ditches the association treaty it would lead to “a radicalisation of the political situation in Ukraine and possible early elections of both parliament and the president”.

He also said it could lead Kiev to abandon the so-called Minsk ceasefire accord with Russia, giving extra arguments to those EU leaders who are keen to end sanctions on Russia on grounds that the conflict is Ukraine’s fault.

The recent events recall those after the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution.

Corruption scandals, infighting, and lack of progress on EU ties in the wake of the earlier uprising led Ukrainians, in 2010, to vote back into power the pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych, who, like Azarov, lives in exile in Russia.


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