Ukraine has sought to avoid a political crisis after the shock resignation of its prime minister, as fighting between the army and rebels close to the Malaysian airliner crash site claimed over a dozen more lives.
President Petro Poroshenko called on parliament to heed “cold reason” and pass a vote of confidence in the government, a day after premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk stepped down in fury over the collapse of his ruling coalition.
Yatsenyuk’s resignation piles on more woes for a country already struggling to cope with a chaotic situation in the rebel-controlled east, where international experts are carrying out a complex investigation into last week’s downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that killed 298 people.
The grave challenges facing the country extend beyond its borders, as Washington accused Russian troops of firing artillery across the border on Ukrainian forces.
The United States has already accused Moscow of supplying the missile system it believes was used by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine to shoot down MH17.
It said late on Thursday that it had evidence Russia was planning to “deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers” to the insurgents.
Both Russia and the rebels deny the accusations, and Moscow hit back on Friday, dismissing the US claims as a “smear campaign”.
The government’s offensive to regain control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland was given a boost Friday when its forces took the strategically-important city of Lysychansk.
At the same time, it reported losing 13 soldiers in the past 24 hours, while local authorities in the region of rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Lugansk said 16 people had been killed.
The bloody insurgency has forced 230,000 people to flee their homes, the United Nations said, including 130,000 who have sought refuge in Russia.