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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Accepts Resignations

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko and his government Friday following the adoption of a new constitution last month, a presidential spokesman said.

"The president has issued the decree and accepted the resignation of both the prime minister and the cabinet," the spokesman said by telephone.

"The reason was simple -- the constitution. He has also ordered them to carry out their duties until the appointment of a new prime minister and government."

According to the new constitution, the president has to present the new government and prime minister to parliament within three months. Until then, he can appoint or dismiss the prime minister without parliamentary approval.

Kuchma said he was going to ask parliament to appoint Lazarenko as head of the government.

Presidential sources said this was likely to happen next week.

Lazarenko, 43, Kuchma's close political ally and a former farm boss, was named Ukraine's fifth prime minister in May. He previously served as first deputy prime minister.

Analysts said Lazarenko could face difficulties in securing parliamentary approval because of a crisis in the economy over unpaid wages, estimated at $1.3 billion.

Thousands of coal miners went on strike this week in the eastern region of Donbass to demand months of unpaid wages. Kuchma has ordered the government to resolve the crisis by the end of summer.

A lower than expected grain harvest this year, forecast at 28 million tonnes compared with earlier predictions of 36 million, could also damage Lazarenko's chances.

Leaders of the communist faction, parliament's biggest, said Friday they would back Lazarenko only if their representatives were included in the new cabinet. Until now, there have been no communists in the government.

"If the Communist Party has some ideas, based on professionalism, honesty and decency, I would be ready to study them," Kuchma was quoted as saying by news agencies after meeting communist deputies Friday.

Last month Kuchma appointed new finance, agriculture and energy ministers and moved Deputy Economic Minister Roman Shpek to a new post responsible for foreign aid received by Kiev.

Ukrainian media said Defence Minister Valery Shmarov and Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko may have problems winning reappointment.

Shmarov has been criticized over officers' unpaid wages, while Udovenko was lambasted by senior presidential advisers after saying last month that Ukraine wanted "associate status" within NATO, which got a negative reaction from Russia.