Members of Ukrainian self-defence battalion 'Donbass' are
seen near the town of Pervomaysk. Ukraine says it has
suspended offensive operations in east Ukraine to help
international experts reach the downed Malaysian airliner's
crash site. REUTERS/Maks Levin
Ukraine's parliament rejected Prime Minister Arseny
Yatseniuk's resignation and finally passed legislation he said
was needed to finance an army offensive against a separatist
rebellion in the east and avert a national default on its
The assembly's about-turn on laws it refused to back a week
earlier offers relief to Kiev's Western backers, who had
feared Ukraine was sliding deeper into political chaos and
might renege on an international bailout as it heads into an
"There are two pieces of news today. The first is that
Argentina has defaulted, and the second is that Ukraine has
not defaulted and never will," Yatseniuk told the chamber,
making clear he would stay in office.
The political battle has been taking place against the
backdrop of a military campaign to win back parts of the
Donbass region, which borders Russia, from the pro-Moscow
Having recaptured the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk in early
July, government forces are now moving on the cities of
Donetsk and Luhansk, with the latter now all but encircled
and electricity and food supplies cut off.
Both sides stopped shooting long enough for an initial group
of international experts, after several days of trying, to
reach the site where a Malaysian airliner came down in
rebel-held territory in the east on July 17, killing 298
people on board.
The experts hope a larger team of investigators will also
soon have access to the site to recover the remains of the
last missing victims and look for evidence showing what
brought the plane down.
"It's been almost a week since we have been on the site and
we haven't noticed many changes. Experts said they have
detected human remains on the site," said Michael Bociurkiw,
a spokesman for an observer team from the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, which escorted the
The group also said fighting around the crash site started
again immediately after they left.
Western leaders accuse the rebels of shooting down the
Malaysian plane and have imposed sanctions on Russia, which
they accuse of arming the separatists, a charge Moscow
There is scant hope of a quick end to the crisis, during
which Moscow has annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine,
but envoys from Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE met in the
Belarussian capital, Minsk.
Kiev said the sides had agreed to keep open the route to the
crash site that was used on Thursday, despite fighting in the
"CONSOLIDATION, NOT CONFRONTATION"
Thursday's vote in parliament was an important sign of
political unity from Kiev, which is struggling to deal with
an economic crisis as well as the war against the
Moscow-backed rebels in the east.
In sharp contrast to a stormy parliamentary session last week
at which Yatseniuk bellowed at legislators and accused them
of betraying Ukraine by blocking reforms, deputies stood and
applauded him after backing the amendments.
President Petro Poroshenko said the new votes in parliament
would help Kiev in its fight against separatists.
"We need consolidation, not confrontation," Poroshenko said.
"We have to be united against external aggression."
Parliament's support was needed to amend the 2014 budget to
take account of falling revenue and release an additional 9.1
billion hryvnia ($758 million) to finance the military.
The government also wanted parliament to back legislation
allowing consortiums with European or U.S. companies to
operate the ageing gas distribution system.
Yatseniuk had said the government would have defaulted on
debt payments and missed out on the release of further funds
under a $17-billion International Monetary Fund bailout if it
had failed to pass the legislation.
"The laws the government is insisting on are unpopular and
difficult, but very necessary," Poroshenko said, adding that
they would "enable the economy, the state as a whole, to
Laws passed on Thursday also introduce an additional
1.5-percent personal income tax until the end of the year to
cover the military. Taxes were raised on tobacco and the
mining, oil and gas sectors. Nearly 2 billion hryvnias were
earmarked for rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by
fighting in the east.
The exit of two parties from the ruling coalition last week
amounted to the start of a campaign for seats in a
legislature still packed with former allies of pro-Russian
president Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted by street
protests in February.
Western governments have come to regard Yatseniuk as a key
interlocutor in the worst standoff between Russia and the
West since the Cold War ended. His departure would have been
seen as leaving a vacuum at the heart of decision making.
The United States and European Union imposed sanctions on
Moscow this week that were far tougher than earlier measures.
Russia has been hitting back.
It announced a ban on fruit and vegetable imports from Poland
on Wednesday and a day later placed an embargo on Ukrainian
fruit juice. Greek fruit and U.S. poultry could follow,
Russian media said.