Angered by economic turmoil and concessions to Russia, lawmakers accepted Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma’s resignation Tuesday and called for a new government.
Kuchma had threatened to quit unless Parliament gave him special powers to carry out economic reforms in the former Soviet republic. President Leonid Kravchuk refused, creating a power struggle.
“Shame! Shame!” some 15,000 protesters chanted outside the Parliament building during the debate. Riot police linked arms in a human chain around the building to shut out the demonstrators.
Kuchma’s departure, on a 294-23 vote, leaves the president responsible for the economy.
The lawmakers voted no confidence in the entire Cabinet and asked Kravchuk to name a new one. Kravchuk was expected to appoint a successor to Kuchma by early today, and the other ministers were expected to stay on until they are replaced. Kravchuk’s appointments must be approved by Parliament.
Kuchma had tried to resign several times, most recently Aug. 31, but lawmakers would not let him go.
They rejected his resignation twice Tuesday morning. But a compromise offered by Chairman Ivan Plyushch, which left Kravchuk in charge of economic policy, broke the deadlock.
“The Parliament, the government and the president work in their own separate directions,” Kuchma told lawmakers. “I think new elections are necessary.”
Kuchma and Kravchuk both were attacked by nationalists for supporting the economic union with Russia to be signed this week in Moscow. Kravchuk also has drawn fire for agreeing to swap nuclear weapons and ships for Russian debt relief.
“Kuchma has to resign because he is the one who will sign the economic union,” protester Roman Zubkovych said. “We won’t leave Kiev until Communist symbols are removed from the Parliament and Kuchma steps down.”