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Ukraine anti-protest laws repealed; PM resigns

The Prime Minister of Ukraine has resigned hours before a planned vote of no confidence by Parliament that could have stripped him of his powers. NBC  News' Ian Williams has the latest from Kiev. 

KIEV – Ukraine’s prime minister resigned Tuesday, just hours before the country's parliament voted in favor of repealing a set of anti-protest laws which had triggered violent unrest in Kiev.

Mykola Azarov said he wanted to step down because of the threat to the economy caused by the deadly anti-government protests, Reuters reported.

President Viktor Yanukovych will now have to appoint a whole new government. Earlier this month, Yanukovych pushed through laws to crack down on protests and raise possible prison sentences for creating mass disorder. 

However, Azarov's resignation appeared unlikely to satisfy the demands of protesters who have besieged the capital’s main square and occupied government buildings.  

"We would like the president and the parliament to resign as well. Look at the situation, look at the number of people who have been killed and the number of people who are missing who we think have been killed as well, so that's why we want the president and the parliament to go as well," a protester who would only give his first name, Alexander, said. 

Demonstrators at the “Euromaidan” protest camp in Kiev’s main square remain opposed to Yanukovych's regime, which in November abandoned a free trade agreement with the European Union in favor of an economic and customs union with Russia.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen next, we don't even know what's going to happen tonight, but, honestly speaking, I don't think Yanukovych is going to resign," another protester who would only give his first name, Sergei, told NBC News. 

Campaigners are angry at the switch away from Europe and Yanukovych's anti-protest laws set off violent clashes.

"Normally, this resignation would be a good solution, but among the people there is zero trust in the government,” said Roman Romanov, program director at Ukraine’s Renaissance Foundation, a non-profit think tank founded by George Soros.

Azarov is an ally of Yanukovych, who appointed him in 2010 to steer the country out of an economic crisis caused by crippling debt.

His resignation came as the country's parliament debated whether to repeal the anti-protest laws. The parliamentary session began with a moment of silence for those killed in the recent unrest.

Pro-government demonstrators, however, also remained steadfast in their support of Yanukovych. 

"We're here to show that we're against the government revolt and against the violent action directed at police, and we're here to give our support to the president, who was elected officially," said Alexander Zinchenko, who runs the pro-government tent camp.

Zinchenko said he and the other supporters were in favor of a peaceful resolution of the ongoing unrest.

"I'm sure there is always a peaceful ending of any conflict and peace is always better than war," he said. 

NBC News' Alastair Jamieson reported from London. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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