Verhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, yesterday (December 2) voted on a new government, placing foreign technocrats in key financial roles and renewing the mandates of foreign and defense ministers, signaling that no major policy changes have taken place. is likely in the rebel East.
Parliament approved Pavlo Klimkin as foreign minister and Stepan Poltorak as defense chief in Arseny Iatseniuk’s cabinet as bombing continued in eastern Ukraine despite new truce deal between government troops and pro-Russian separatists [see full list here].
Kiev has come under international pressure to quickly form a new government to tackle Ukraine’s economy on the verge of bankruptcy and the separatist crisis that has been going on for months after political parties favoring closer relations with the West won a resounding victory in the legislative elections in October.
“2015 will be even more difficult than the current year,” Yatseniuk told MPs ahead of the vote. “We are ready for the most radical, hard and effective reforms. “
The new cabinet includes foreign technocrats in key positions such as the finance minister of Natalie Jaresko, an American citizen, who worked in Ukraine for more than 20 years after holding various economic posts at the US State Department.
Ukraine has been offered billions of dollars in aid from international lenders if it carries out economic reforms, and President Petro Poroshenko has said the administration will benefit from the contribution of international specialists.
The parliamentary vote did not go smoothly.
The speaker had to call for a second round of voting after complaints from coalition members – a display of internal disagreement that does not bode well for parliament’s ability to push through the reforms it needs to implement to ensure that the Ukraine receives more Western aid.
The other two foreigners appointed to the cabinet were Lithuanian Aivaras Abromavicius, partner of investment firm East Capital, and Georgian Aleksander Kvitashvili, who are now ministers of economy and health respectively.
Under Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, Kiev has cut aid to eastern regions held by pro-Russian rebels shortly after protesters toppled the pro-Moscow president of Kiev in February.
The fighting continued despite a ceasefire reached on September 5. In the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, a senior separatist official said rival parties agreed to a new local truce starting at 3:00 p.m. GMT around the city’s airport.
“But this is the 65th time that we have agreed on this point. I do not exclude that there will be a 66th time, ”said Andrei Purgin. The sounds of combat died down but did not stop. Kiev said the rebels resumed their attacks on the airport in the evening.
Russia admits having supported the separatists but denies Western accusations of being a party to the armed conflict.