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Ukraine prime minister offers to quit over leaks denigrating president

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Via Financial Times

Ukraine’s prime minister Oleksiy Honcharuk has offered to resign after audio recordings leaked this week suggested he had described the country’s president as having a “primitive” understanding of the economy.

In a statement on Facebook on Friday, Mr Honcharuk said he had tendered his resignation to Volodymyr Zelensky, the former comedian who became head of state last year, “to dispel any doubts about our respect and trust for the president”.

He said the audio recordings of government meetings contained files of “doctored fragments . . . which created a fake perception that I and my team do not respect the president who is our political leader”.

Blaming the leaks on “vested interests” who sought financial benefit, Mr Honcharuk said he had given the president the opportunity to pass his resignation on to parliament.

Mr Zelensky won a landslide victory in April after promising Ukrainian voters sweeping reforms that would end corruption, raise living standards and end the war with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country. Within weeks, his hastily formed Servant of the People party won the first overall majority in parliamentary elections since Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Mr Honcharuk, a 35-year old lawyer, was named prime minister.

On Friday, analysts said this week’s political drama in Kyiv was unlikely to bring down the government.

A senior member of the ruling party described Mr Honcharuk’s move as a “political gesture” adding: “Zelensky won’t accept it and send over to parliament for a vote. And we won’t vote to accept Mr Honcharuk’s resignation.”

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But the scandal caused by the leaked recordings, in which a voice resembling Mr Honcharuk’s is heard saying Mr Zelensky “has a very primitive understanding of the economy”, poses a test for the president’s relationship with billionaire oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. A handful of MPs from the ruling party with reported links to Mr Kolomoisky pressed Mr Honcharuk to resign.

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