KIEV Ukraine's acting First Deputy Prime Minister Valery Khoroshkovsky resigned from the interim government on Friday in protest against Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's reappointment for a second term, his office said.
In a move that could indicate a rift among President Viktor Yanukovich's supporters, Khoroshkovsky blasted Azarov who was reappointed by parliament on Thursday for a second term in office amid an outcry from the political opposition.
"Valery Khoroshkovsky considers this candidate (Azarov) incapable of carrying out economic reforms and defending our country's strategic course for European integration," his office said in a statement.
One of Azarov's early tasks will be to help negotiate a new stand-by program from the International Monetary Fund. The current $15 billion package, which lapses at the end of the year, was in any case suspended in early 2011 largely because of Azarov's refusal to meet reforms requested by the Fund.
The unusually forthright comment by Khoroshkovsky, a wealthy and influential 43-year-old businessman with large stakes in media and metals, suggested he did not see Azarov as the person who could deliver on a deal with the Fund.
All government members, including Khoroshkovsky, have been working in an interim capacity following the formal resignation of the Azarov government on December 3 following a parliamentary election.
Azarov, re-appointed on Thursday, has yet to announce the line-up of his new cabinet and it was not clear whether he even intended to include Khoroshkovsky on his list.
Khoroshkovsky served as head of the SBU state security service before being appointed No. 2 to Azarov and has also held the posts of finance minister, economy minister and head of the customs service in the past.
(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Balmforth)