Ukraine cabinet quits, prime minister's future uncertain

Mon Dec 3, 2012 10:47am EST
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By Olzhas Auyezov

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's government on Monday, without indicating whether he would re-appoint the long-time ally ahead of tough IMF loan talks.

The move had been expected after several cabinet members including Azarov were elected to parliament on October 28, something which obliges them to give up their ministerial roles.

Yanukovich told Azarov's government to stay on in an interim capacity, according to a decree published on the presidential website, and some commentators said he may keep the same team.

The 64-year-old Azarov has spent two and a half years trying to revive the debt-ridden economy, but economic growth rates have slowed this year as demand has shrunk for Ukraine's main exports such as steel.

The pragmatic, dour Azarov has resisted IMF pressure to carry out reforms such as raising the price of gas for households, an unpopular move that would have rebounded on the ruling Party of the Regions in the October election.

Yet he is seen by some as a safe pair of hands and many commentators believe Yanukovich, who brought him in as prime minister when he himself was elected in February 2010, might not want to take a chance to appoint a new face just now.

"Yanukovich will not take risks and complicate things at a time when the world economy is in crisis," said political analyst Taras Berezovets.

Yanukovich's Regions party fell short of its own expectations in the October vote, but still looks likely to be able to pull together a majority in the next parliament, which convenes for its first session on December 12.   Continued...

Then Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (R, front) talks on the phone after he was appointed as prime minister in Kiev in this March 11, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin/Files