Immediately after being inaugurated as Ukraine’s president on Monday, Volodymyr Zelensky called for the national parliament to be disbanded.
“I dissolve the Verkhovna Rada of the eighth convocation,” Zelensky told the legislature. He demanded snap elections by the end of July, instead of October as had been planned.
Many current members of parliament have connections with the former president, Petro Poroshenko, whom Zelensky defeated in a run-off last month with about three-quarters of the votes.
Zelensky also requested that the prime minister’s cabinet resign during his inauguration speech. In response, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman announced he would comply.
“I have decided to tender my resignation immediately after the next cabinet meeting is conducted on Wednesday,” Groysman, an ally of Poroshenko, said in a televised address.
Previously a television actor, Zelensky, 41, campaigned as an alternative to a political establishment that has long struggled with entrenched corruption.
He came to fame with his role as a fictional president on a popular TV show, “Servant of the People.” Unlike the veteran politician Poroshenko, Zelensky had never before held public office.
Five years ago Poroshenko was swept to power by a pro-Western revolution.
He led Ukraine through its toughest post-Soviet period, marked by a pro-Russian separatist rebellion in the country’s east.
The ensuing violence has claimed about 13,000 lives, according to UN estimates.
Amid the conflict, Poroshenko appeared slow in enacting promised reforms.
Restoring peace to Eastern Ukraine is the top priority for the incoming administration, Zelensky said in his inauguration speech.
“Our primary task is ceasefire in Donbass,” Zelensky said. “I can assure I am willing to do everything for our heroes not to die anymore.”
“I am sure that the first step towards starting this dialogue will be the return of all our captives,” Zelensky told the parliament.
The rebellion erupted in early 2014, shortly after Kiev ousted its pro-Russian president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, in a political pivot towards the West.
Russia responded to the ouster by annexing Ukraine’s Southern Crimea region, the site of a major Russian naval base since the Soviet era, and supporting the separatist movement.
Russia has justified such actions as protecting the interests of Russian-speaking groups within its sphere of influence.
It has repeatedly denied Ukraine’s accusations that it has fuelled the conflict with weaponry supplies or active servicemen.
The conflict appears to have pushed the rest of Ukraine closer to the West, including a drive to join the NATO military alliance. Zelensky is widely expected to continue on that path.
The Kremlin suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin would congratulate Zelensky only after the “first successes on the issue of settling the internal conflict” in Eastern Ukraine, according to Russian state media.
Putin has previously represented rebel groups from Ukraine’s conflict regions at international peace talks.
The Kremlin has affirmed that it is interested in having such talks continue with Zelensky.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has helped broker such talks, pledged assistance to Ukraine in restoring its territorial integrity.
Speaking at a NATO base in Northern Germany, Merkel welcomed Zelensky’s comments in his inaugural address that ending the conflict was a priority.
In separate comments, the German Foreign Ministry stood behind Zelensky’s call to dissolve the Ukrainian parliament, describing it as a logical step.
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