POLITICS: PennAve

Ukraine's prime minister resigns, anti-dissent law repealed

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Politics,Joe Biden,Russia,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Ukraine

The Ukrainian government's number two leader resigned Tuesday after the country's Parliament repealed legislation banning public protests.

President Viktor Yanukovych accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Tuesday as the government tried to quell protests that have swept the country over the last month and turned violent over the weekend.

Yanukovych's government posted a notice online saying Azarov's resignation would trigger the dismissal of the entire cabinet.

The move is unlikely to satisfy protesters who are upset over Yanukovych's ties to Russia and are demanding new presidential elections. Yanukovych decided in November to abandon plans for tighter links with the European Union, instead opting for more trade ties with Russia.

Vice President Joe Biden called Yanukovych on Monday for the second time in a week and urged him to take “immediate measures” to de-escalate the tension between protesters and the government and repeal the anti-dissent laws passed Jan. 16.

Biden's message to Yanukovych also included a thinly veiled threat.

“The vice president reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for a Ukraine that rejects violence and that respects the human rights and dignity of its citizens in accordance with their European aspirations and their desire to restore their country back to economic health,” the White House said.

In recent days, some Ukrainians have turned to the U.S. for support. The White House's “We the People” petition website has 11 petitions related to the pro-democratic protests in Ukraine.

One petition, which attracted more than 126,000 signatures in five days, calls on the U.S. to impose visa and financial sanctions against Yanukovych and members of his cabinet. Another, which garnered 56,000 signatures in two days, calls for the U.S. to support the “peaceful overthrow” of the Ukrainian government.

The White House has a policy of responding to any petition that receives at least 100,000 signatures within 30 days.

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