Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has threatened to quit along with his entire government in the latest escalation of a political crisis rocking the former Soviet state.
The warning raises the possibility of Ukraine holding snap parliamentary polls should Yatsenyuk’s replacement fail to win lawmakers’ approval or the current pro-Western coalition breaks up and a new one is not formed.
But analysts said the prospects of pro-Russian forces storming back to power in elections and Ukraine losing vital Western financial support made Yatsenyuk’s statement sound more like a bluff designed to reinforce his increasingly insecure position.
“If it is decided that this team should be changed, then we will all leave together,” the 41-year-old former banker yesterday told a televised meeting of parliament.
Ukraine has been on edge since the shock resignation on Wednesday of its reformist Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius.
The Lithuanian-born economy chief accused a top member of President Petro Poroshenko’s party of trying to get his own people into senior ministry posts and blocking his efforts to break the tycoons’ years-long stranglehold on state industries.
Abromavicius has further been quoted as saying that he would like to see US-born Economy Minister Natalie Jaresko — a key player in restructuring Ukraine’s massive debt — replace his foe Yatsenyuk.
The resignation sparked alarm among Ukraine’s Western allies and prompted Poroshenko to hold a meeting with ambassadors from the G7 countries in a bid to allay their concerns.
The president came out of Thursday’s talks promising “to continue the reforms that the Ukrainian society expects from the authorities.”
“For this to happen, it is essential to reset the government,” the presidential website quoted him as saying.
The prospects of a cabinet reshuffle in mid-February has been forecast by the Ukrainian media for some time.
But Yatsenyuk’s statement appeared to be aimed directly at Poroshenko’s remarks about a government “reset”.
The two leaders worked closely together in the heady days that followed Ukraine’s dramatic 2014 pro-Atlanticist putsch and through the subsequent pro-Russian revolt in the separatist east.
Yet disagreements between them have become more frequent and Yatsenyuk seems unwilling to let the president and his parliamentary party have more influence over the coalition government’s makeup.