Ukraine parliament speaker chosen to head new government

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  • Arseniy Yatsenyuk
    Arseniy Yatsenyuk
    Ukrainian Politician, economist, and lawyer

Kiev (AFP) - Ukraine's parliament on Wednesday approved a new pro-EU government headed by parliament speaker Volodymyr Groysman to replace the cabinet of prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who resigned at the weekend, officials said.

The pro-western coalition in power "has backed the candidature of Groysman for the post of prime minister," a spokesman for another candidate, Dmytro Stolarchuk, said on Twitter, with several parliamentarians confirming the decision which was thrashed out over days of fraught debate.

The new prime minister and his team are expected to be formally named on Thursday, said parliamentary deputy Maksim Bourbak.

Parliament had agreed on who should head up all the ministries, with the exception of the health ministry, the deputies added.

Ukraine has been gripped by a months-long political crisis that forced Yatsenyuk to resign on Sunday over his seeming failure to fight graft and implement economic restructuring measures prescribed by the IMF under a $17.5-billion (15.4-billion-euro) rescue deal.

The release of new tranches of that money and billions of dollars of other aid have been suspended until the former Soviet republic can unite behind a new government and fulfil the pledges made during its historic February 2014 pro-EU revolt.

The leaders who succeeded ousted Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych have seen their approval ratings plunge due to public disillusionment about their ability to break a handful of tycoons' grip on politics and eliminate corruption.

The pro-EU coalition that formed after the so-called Maidan Revolution has since cracked and forced the parties led by current President Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk -- parliament's two largest -- to enlist a handful of other lawmakers to make sure that a new government is approved.

- 'Workaholic' -

The political mayhem comes against the backdrop of a two-year-old pro-Russian rebellion in the separatist east that has claimed nearly 9,200 lives.

Russia denies charges by Kiev and its Western allies of orchestrating and supporting the insurgency in reprisal for Ukraine's pivot away from Moscow towards the West.

The negotiations between the two main parties on the composition of the new government had carried on for days.

Lists of potential cabinet member published by Ukrainian media and cited by lawmakers excluded the three foreigners Poroshenko called up in December 2014 to help the country recover from its dramatic economic slide.

These included widely-respected Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, a US-born former State Department worker and private banker who won plaudits for being able to pull off a crucial debt restructuring deal in August 2015.

"Yatsenyuk's resignation will create more risks for Poroshenko's rule," analyst Mikhail Minakov of Carnegie Europe wrote in a report.

"With Yatsenyuk gone, Poroshenko will be the major politician responsible for the success of Ukraine's reforms."

Groysman, who at 38 years is set to become Ukraine's youngest prime minister, is considered loyal to the president. He also served for several months as Yatsenyuk's vice-premier.

He built a solid reputation during eight years as mayor of the centre-west town of Vinnytsia, considered a Poroshenko stronghold.

He is a "workaholic " with a "great capacity for resolving disputes", but lacks a "comprehensive vision", according to past and present employees interviewed by AFP.

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