Ukraine's PM dodges no confidence vote despite president's discontent, protests

Protesters outside Verkhovna Rada in Kiev demand dissolution of the Ukrainian government and resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. © Stringer
A vote of no-confidence on the ousting of PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s government has failed to secure enough votes in the Ukrainian parliament. The result comes despite President Petro Poroshenko’s call for the PM to step down and protests against the current cabinet head.

Only 194 MPs supported to the motion, out of the required 226 on Tuesday, although the lawmakers had previously denounced the cabinet’s work saying it had been unsatisfactory.

To restore confidence in government the president urged the General Prosecutor and PM to resign,” said Svyatoslav Tsegolko on his Twitter account.

The cabinet will continue its work. However, Yulia Timoshenko’s party announced that it will withdraw its representative, the minister of youth and sports, Igor Zhdanov.

The work of the cabinet will again be assessed in September.

Earlier on Tuesday, Poroshenko met with Shokin and suggested that he resign, according to the presidential website.

"The same parameters should be applied to the government also ... society has clearly decided that there have been more mistakes than achievements, and denied ministers its trust,” the president said.

According to a report in the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper which cited an unnamed source, Shokin has tendered his resignation.

Yatsenyuk said he would accept any decision made by the Rada.

Meanwhile, hundreds protesters gathered in front of the Ukrainian parliament to call for the prime minister’s resignation.

Protesters shouted slogans including “Sack Yatsenyuk” while holding placards with anti-government messages and hitting metal barrels.

The demonstrators also made a stuffed dummy of Yatsenyuk’s face, rabbit ears and a sign reading "Senya" (short for Arseniy).

Many of the demonstrators were carrying flags of the far-right Svoboda party and the nationalist Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) as seen in the photos and videos from the scene.

One of the popular slogans at the protest was “Yatsenyuk to the scaffold,” according to the local Federal News Agency. It also reported that the protesters brought animal cages with rabbits to the demo and put up signs saying “Put rabbits in a cage, not in the cabinet.”

The PM has been nicknamed “Rabbit,” with people comparing him to an animated character from the Soviet cartoon ‘Winnie the Pooh.’

Why anger at Yatsenyuk?

During the Tuesday session, nearly all 27 Rada committees agreed that the work of Yatsenyuk’s cabinet was unsatisfactory.

The loss of jobs and Ukrainian exports… My question is what the government thought when it wasn’t fulfilling the coalition agreement? Why are you engaged in collecting loans from the IMF, but not actual improvement of the economy?” asked the head of the industrial policy and business committee, Viktor Galasyuk, as quoted by TASS.

The head of the committee on ecology, Nikolay Tomenko, described the situation as “catastrophic.” He also urged the government to stop blaming the conflict in south-eastern Ukraine for the country’s problems.

Ukrainian lawmakers have managed to collect the 150 signatures needed to put the issue of the PM’s resignation on the agenda of the Rada, according to the press service of the Samopomoshch (Self-assistance) faction.

Mustafa Nayem, a lawmaker with Poroshenko’s faction, said there are 159 such signatures.

In August, Ukraine agreed a restructuring deal with a creditor committee led by Franklin Templeton (a holding company which owns about $7 billion worth of Ukrainian bonds), providing a 20 percent write-down on about $18 billion worth of Eurobonds.

Russia refused to participate in the debt restructuring, claiming its bond purchase was a state loan not a commercial one. In January, Ukraine officially defaulted on a $3 billion debt to Russia.