Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov adjusts his glasses during an interview with Reuters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 23, 2014. Denis Balibouse/Reuters
The prime minister of protest-torn Ukraine submitted his resignation Tuesday, saying he hoped the move would help bring peaceful resolution to the crisis that has gripped the country for two months.
Mykola Azarov's resignation would remove one of the figures most despised by the opposition. It came as the parliament opened a special session that is expected to repeal harsh anti-protest laws that were imposed this month. Those laws set off the police-protester clashes in which at least three protesters died.
His resignation must be accepted by President Viktor Yanukovych, but that appears to be only a formality. Yanukovych last week offered the premiership to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of the opposition's top figures. Yatsenyuk turned down the offer Monday.
In addition, Yanukovych says an amnesty for dozens of protesters arrested in the demonstrations would be implemented only if protesters leave the streets and vacate buildings that they have occupied. Ending the protests without having other demands met appears unlikely.
The Tuesday moves would fall short of opposition demands, which also include Yanukovych's resignation and a call for new elections.
The pro-Western protests in Kyiv began Nov. 21 after Yanukovych shelved a long-planned political and economic treaty with the European Union, then accepted a huge bailout package from Russian President Vladimir Putin instead. The crisis was aggravated in recent days after protesters and police clashed violently.
In a statement on the government website, Azarov offered his resignation in order to encourage what he called "social-political compromise."
Police violently dispersed two of those protests, after which crowds grew substantially, angered by the brutality. Protesters established an extensive tent camp in downtown Kyiv's main square, where demonstrators have gathered around-the-clock since early December.
Protesters also seized several buildings, including the city hall, which they have used as makeshift operations centres and shelters.
After Yanukovych approved the anti-protest laws, demonstrations spread to other parts of the country, including to some cities in the Russian-speaking east, the base of Yanukovych's support.
Also unresolved is the issue that originally set off the protests — Yanukovych's shelving in November of a long-awaited agreement to deepen ties with the European Union.