KIEV, Ukraine — In back-to-back moves aimed at defusing Ukraine’s political crisis, the prime minister resigned Tuesday and parliament repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police.
The two developments were significant concessions to the anti-government protesters who have fought sporadically with police for the last 10 days after two months of peaceful around-the-clock demonstrations. The protests erupted after President Viktor Yanukovych decided to turn toward Russia for a bailout loan instead of signing a deal with the European Union, but have since morphed into a general plea for more human rights, less corruption and more democracy in this nation of 45 million.
The departure of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov removes one of the officials most disliked by the opposition forces whose protests have turned parts of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, into a barricaded maze.
However, Azarov’s spokesman told the Interfax news agency that deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov will assume temporary leadership of the Cabinet in the meantime. Such a move is unlikely to please the opposition, as Arbuzov is widely viewed as just another staunch ally of Yanukovych.
Other key issues remain unresolved in Ukraine’s political crisis, including the opposition’s repeated demands for Yanukovych to resign and for a new election to be held.
Azarov’s resignation came just before the opening of a special parliament session that repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police.
Yanukovych earlier this month had pushed through new laws to crack down on protests and raise prison sentences for creating disorder. The laws also prohibited people from wearing helmets and gas masks, which many have done for fear that riot police would try to violently disperse protests.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a lawmaker who is one of the opposition’s top figures, hailed the parliament’s move.
“We have repealed all the laws against which the whole country rose up,” he said.
Yanukovych over the weekend had offered the premiership to Yatsenyuk, but the opposition leader refused the post.