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Ukrainian president asks PM who disparaged him to stay

Mr Zelenskiy called the tape situation ‘unpleasant’

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has rejected his prime minister’s offer to resign, and asked him to stay on in the job.

Mr Honcharuk submitted his resignation days after he was caught on tape saying Mr Zelenskiy knows nothing about the economy.

In a video released by Mr Zelenskiy’s office on Friday evening, the president said he decided to “give a chance” to Mr Honcharuk and his Cabinet.

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Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

AP/PA Images

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The furore comes at a fraught moment for Mr Zelenskiy, who has found himself in the middle of the impeachment case unfolding against President Donald Trump in Washington.

President Trump stands accused of withholding nearly 400 million US dollars in military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country’s leader to investigate political rival Joe Biden.

In a Facebook post earlier on Friday, Mr Honcharuk praised Mr Zelenskiy as “an example of transparency and decency to me”, and added: “In order to dispel any doubts about our respect and trust for the president, I have written a resignation letter and submitted it to the president for introduction to parliament.”

The offer to step down was subject to approval by the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. But analysts expressed doubt the resignation would come to pass.

“Zelenskiy doesn’t want to dismiss Honcharuk,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta think tank.

Ukraine’s president fears prompting a political crisis in the country by doing it and does not want to complicate his relationship with foreign investors and the International Monetary Fund, said Volodymyr Sidenko, an analyst with the Razumkov Centre think tank.

“Honcharuk’s resignation can destroy the idea of the government’s unity and cast a doubt on Zelenskiy’s ability to control the situation,” Mr Sidenko said.

Earlier this week, an audio recording surfaced in which Mr Honcharuk appeared to make disparaging comments about Mr Zelenskiy’s understanding of economics.

He called Mr Zelenskiy “a layman” in economics and said the president should be better educated about the national currency.

Mr Zelenskiy is a 41-year-old former comedian whose only political experience before his election last spring consisted of playing a Ukrainian president on TV.

He starred in Servant Of The People as a high school history teacher who is propelled to the highest office after his rant against government corruption goes viral.

Mr Honcharuk said that the recording was a compilation of “fragments of recorded government meetings,” and he blamed unidentified “influential groups” for making it look as if he did not respect the president.

“It is not true,” the prime minister insisted.

PA