Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has called for an end to the country’s political turmoil and vowed to press ahead with pro-EU reforms, after clinging to power in what critics called an “oligarchs’ coup”.
Mr Yatsenyuk’s government survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Tuesday, which leading politicians from several parties said turned on the votes of deputies with close links to Ukraine’s shadowy and highly influential tycoons.
The vote came after Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko urged Mr Yatsenyuk to resign and allow a “full reset” of the government, which domestic and international critics say has failed in its promise to fight rampant corruption.
Mr Poroshenko was due to hold crisis talks on Wednesday night with his party, the biggest in parliament, and with former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, who withdrew her Fatherland party from the ruling coalition in anger over the no-confidence vote.
Another coalition party, Self Reliance, plans to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to decide whether to continue its alliance with the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and Mr Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front party, after what it called “the oligarchs’ coup that has taken place in Ukraine”.
Ukraine in turmoil as bid to oust Yatsenyuk government fails
The departure of Fatherland and Self Reliance would strip the coalition of its majority in parliament, but it may bring the populist Radical Party into the fold to ease the passage of vital reforms, with billions of euro in IMF funding at stake.
“The government will be formed again,” Mr Yatsenyuk declared.
“We will conduct political consultations, including with the Radical Party of Oleh Lashko, to reform the coalition, renew the coalition agreement . . . and continue to move in the right direction for the country. And that is the direction of very clear steps along the path of reform.”
Battle for power
Mr Yatsenyuk, who has been premier since Ukraine’s 2014 pro-western revolution, claimed this was “an artificial political crisis, intended to trigger early elections – it is nothing more than a battle for power”.
On Tuesday, 247 deputies in the 450-seat parliament supported a motion declaring the government’s work unsatisfactory.
Just minutes later, however, only 194 deputies backed a motion of no-confidence in the cabinet – well short of the 226 votes needed to remove it.
Prominent politicians from several parties said many of the votes that “went missing” between the two motions belonged to deputies who effectively do the bidding of the tycoons who still wield huge political power in Ukraine.
“I call it a conspiracy of money against ideals,” said deputy Serhiy Leshchenko, who accused several fellow members of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc of obeying oligarchs’ orders to save a cabinet whose anti-corruption credentials are in question.
“The failure of the vote to remove Yatsenyuk is a blow against the ‘reset’ that should have saved us from a looming wave of public wrath,” Mr Leshchenko added.
Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, wanted for corruption and now governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region, urged deputies to form a new coalition “which would be guided not by oligarchs, but by the interests of the state”.