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Ukraine's Prime Minister Offers Cryptic Reasons for Sudden Resignation

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk tendered his resignation on Sunday, citing a "political crisis" that he said had been "unleashed artificially."

by Tess Owen
Apr 10 2016, 1:40pm

Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk tendered his resignation on Sunday in a televised broadcast.

"I took the decision to resign as prime minister of Ukraine. On Tuesday, April 12, I will submit it to parliament. My decision is based on a several reasons — the political crisis in the government has been unleashed artificially, the desire to change one person has blinded politicians and paralyzed their will to bring about real changes in the country," he said

Yatseniuk followed up his announcement with a series of tweets in which he again described the country's political crisis as "artificial," and said the "the process of changing the government turned into running in place." He said President Petro Poroshenko's BPP party had nominated Volodymyr Groysman to be his replacement. Yatseniuk also thanked "the colleagues who've acted honestly and selflessly," and said the country's last two governments were "unique" and "the first manifestations of New Ukraine."

"The core of our problems is not purely political. It is ethical," Yatseniuk said in another statement posted on Facebook. "As in our everyday lives, politics is the result of morality — our ethical standards. If dignity and morality require changing the political rules, then changing these rules is certain to occur."

In February, the government that took power in 2014 barely survived a no-confidence vote in parliament that was the result of infighting and the failure to root out corruption as promised. Poroshenko's BPP and Yatseniuk's People's Front party were due to announce the formation of a new coalition next week. Yatseniuk said his party remained committed to the coalition.

"We cannot allow detribalization of the executive branch during a war," Yatseniuk said. "This would be inevitable, if after this resignation a new government of Ukraine is not selected immediately."

Yatseniuk's cryptic message might have something to do with the implication of Poroshenko in last week's Panama Papers leak. The confectionary magnate came to power in 2014 after a popular uprising that ousted his corrupt predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych.

Related: The Panama Papers: Massive Leak Reveals the Global Elite's Secret Cash Havens

Poroshenko touted himself as a different kind of politician, but the leaked files revealed that the oligarch and "chocolate king" — as he is known due to the inclusion of a prominent confectionary company in his corporate empire — was stashing his assets from his companies in offshore accounts. In 2014, the tycoon became the sole owner of "Prime Asset Partners Limited," a company in the British Virgin Islands. The Cypriot law firm representing Prime Asset Partners Limited noted that although the new company belonged to "a person involved in politics," it had "nothing to do with his political activities."

A spokesperson for Poroshenko told the International Center for Investigative Journalism, the organization that helped release the Panama Papers, that neither Prime Asset Partners nor two related companies in Cyprus and the Netherlands held his assets, and that they were instead part of a corporate restructuring plan designed to sell his confectionary company.

The Panama Papers revelations came during a campaign against the use of offshore accounts waged by Poroshenko's government. The scandal intensified the already acrimonious relations between Poroshenko's bloc and Yatseniuk's party, which for months has been fueled by mutual accusations of corruption.

Yatseniuk's resignation comes at a tense time during the Ukrainian government's ongoing conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the country's east. Earlier this week, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors the truce agreement that was signed in February 2015, expressed concern about what it described as the highest level of ceasefire violations so far this year. There have reportedly been a sharp uptick in attacks by separatists, and rebels have reported increased shelling by government forces. The fighting that broke out in eastern Ukraine two years ago killed over 9,100 people.

Related: How Ukraine's War Became Big Business For the Underworld

Reuters contributed to this report.

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