Ukrainian president mulling candidates for prime minister

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Ukraine's president is considering the country's finance minister as a possible replacement for embattled Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk amid talks to end a drawn-out political crisis.

President Petro Poroshenko's spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, said Monday on Facebook that the president was meeting with political leaders to discuss forming a new governing coalition.

Yatsenyuk's Cabinet survived a no-confidence vote last month, but two parties left the coalition in protest over the failure to oust the premier, who is under fire over the worsening economy and slow pace of reforms.

Tsegolko said Poroshenko is considering Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko as a possible premier. He said another candidate is Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv who leads the Samopomich (Self Help) party — one of the two parties that quit the coalition.

Their withdrawal meant that the governing coalition no longer commands a majority in the 450-seat parliament. The two factions remaining in the coalition are led by Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, and they together have 217 seats.

If lawmakers fail to form a new coalition, that may lead to early elections, which Poroshenko has sought to avoid for fear of further destabilizing the situation in the country.

Ukraine has remained locked in a bitter tug-of-war with Russia, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and supports a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014 and devastated the nation's industrial heartland.

Tsegolko's statement comes on the eve of a parliament session, which may consider a motion to replace Yatsenyuk. The presidential spokesman said that the appointment of Yatsenyuk would mean forming a new "technocratic" government, adding that a "political" government led by Sadovyi or another candidate that could be offered by lawmakers was also a possibility.

"Poroshenko is trying to show his readiness to compromise, and he also wants to assuage Western donors and to prevent new elections and a full-fledged crisis," said Kiev-based analyst Vadim Karasyov.

Jaresko, a Ukrainian-American who had served in various economic positions at the U.S. State Department and later headed a leading investment fund, has a strong reputation with Western governments and investors.