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Ukraine President Accepts PM's Resignation

Ukraine's embattled President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov -- a key demand of anti-government protesters who have occupied central Kyiv for weeks.

In announcing the resignation, the president's website said that under Ukrainian law, the rest of the Cabinet must resign as well. The website said the ministers were instructed to remain at their posts until a new Cabinet is in place.

The White House on Tuesday said Mr. Yanukovych informed Vice President Joe Biden of the latest developments.

A statement said Biden "welcomed progress" on defusing the crisis and urged the Ukrainian leader to sign into law "without delay" new legislation repealing anti-protest measures enacted earlier this month. It also said Biden voiced support for a Ukrainian amnesty law that would free protesters jailed since the anti-government demonstrations erupted two months ago.

For his part, Mr. Yanukovych earlier said that dozens of detained protesters would be pardoned only if activists take down their barricades and leave the streets.

Protesters on Monday did leave the Justice Ministry building that they had occupied for days, but promised to return if no progress is made on ending the standoff.

Opposition supporters took to the streets in late November when Mr. Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia that include a $15 billion Russian bailout.

In Brussels Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told European Union leaders that Moscow will keep its loan promise to cash-poor Ukraine and provide steep natural gas discounts -- even if the opposition comes to power.

However, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who also was attending the Brussels summit, said Moscow probably would re-examine its pledges if a new Kyiv government were to announce "different priorities."

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