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Ukraine protests continue despite prime minister's resignation

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's resignation came as Ukraine's parliament voted to repeal anti-protest measures that it had passed just a few weeks back.

Ukraine pm offers resignationEnlarge
Riot police stand guard by a road block made by anti-government protesters in Kyiv on Tuesday. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet on Tuesday.

Azarov said he hoped his departure would help bring about a peaceful settlement after two months of mass protests and violence.

On the streets, protests showed no signs of abating.

As the news arrived of Azarov’s resignation, few on the streets seemed moved by ruling regime’s most substantial concession yet.

Nadia Bakai, a 44-year-old protester from western Ukraine, said she had “no reaction.”

“We’re waiting for [Yanukovych’s] complete ouster,” she said. “Whoever can, will continue to stand out here.”

The 66-year-old Azarov announced his decision as parliament met for an emergency session to approve concessions to the opposition aimed at ending street protests in the capital Kyiv and other cities in which at least six people have died.

"I have taken a personal decision to ask the president of Ukraine to accept my resignation from the post of prime minister," Azarov said in a statement.

He said he hoped his resignation would create "an additional possibility for a political compromise to peacefully resolve the conflict."

"The government has done everything during this standoff for a peaceful resolution of the conflict," he said, adding that his cabinet had been forced to work under "extreme conditions."

(Dan Peleschuk/GlobalPost)

More from GlobalPost: Ukraine protesters spurn president’s concessions

Lawmakers repeal anti-protest laws

Ukrainian lawmakers also voted overwhelmingly in favor of repealing anti-protest measures that inflamed the protests when passed two weeks ago. This time the vote was 361 to 2.

The laws had prohibited wearing helmets, pitching tents and blocking buildings, all measures seemingly aimed at the demonstrators.

Lawmakers were expected to meet again on Tuesday to discuss an amnesty for protesters.

Opposition leaders, meanwhile, suggested they would press on.

“We have to change not only the government, but the rules of the game as well,” boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told protesters on Independence Square.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former foreign minister and now one of three opposition leaders, rejected Yanukovych's offer to become prime minister last weekend. Klitschko, leader of the opposition UDAR party, also turned down the position of deputy prime minister, calling it a "poisonous offer" devised to divide the opposition.

Pro-government rally fed up of protests

Across town, at the pro-government rally protected by armored police officers, demonstrators say they were fed up with the two-month-long protests that have ravaged central Kyiv and brought radicals onto the streets.

Yuriy Kalinchuk, a 36-year-old protester, said that getting rid of Azarov was a small price to pay to avoid a worsening of the political crisis.

“He’s doing everything he can to avoid more bloodshed,” said Kalinchuk, who hailed Yanukovych as “a very smart man.”

The move also raised questions over Russia’s $15 billion loan to Ukraine, which Yanukovych accepted after spurning key political and trade deals with the European Union.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin assuaged those concerns, telling reporters in Brussels on Monday that the deal — which was signed under Azarov — would not be reviewed.

“This is not important to us,” he said, AFP reported.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report.

This was the scene in Kyiv on Saturday, as captured by senior correspondent Dan Peleschuk:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140128/ukraines-prime-minister-offers-resign-help-end-conflict