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Ukraine President Accepts PM's Resignation

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov -- a key demand of his political opponents.

The Ukrainian president's website said Mr. Yanukovych had accepted the prime minister's resignation and that, under Ukrainian law, the rest of the Cabinet of Ministers must resign.

It said President Yanukovych had instructed the ministers to continue to carry out their duties "until the newly-formed Cabinet of Ministers starts working."

Mr. Azarov tendered his resignation earlier Tuesday, saying he hoped it would create an opportunity for a peaceful settlement of the country's political crisis.

Also Tuesday, parliament backed the repeal of recently-approved anti-protest laws, which Mr. Yanukovych agreed to scrap after meeting with opposition leaders on Monday.

But President Yanukovych said dozens of protesters who have been arrested would be amnestied only if activists take down their barricades and leave the streets.

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

Marchers 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.

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia would keep its promise to lend Ukraine $15 billion and to reduce what it charges for natural gas exports to its neighbor even if the opposition comes to power.

Mr. Putin made his comments in Brussels, where he was attending an EU-Russia summit.

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