Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected his prime minister’s offer to resign and asked him to stay on the job Friday after he was caught on tape saying Zelenskiy — a former sitcom star with no previous political experience — knows nothing about the economy.
In a video released by Zelenskiy’s office, the president called the situation “unpleasant” but asked Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk and his Cabinet to carry on.
“I decided to give you and your government a chance if you manage to solve important issues that the public worries about,” Zelenskiy said as he faced Honcharuk across the table.
“It’s not a moment when we can afford economic and political destabilization.”
He instructed Honcharuk to look into multimillion-dollar bonuses given to executives of the state-controlled gas company and high salaries for Cabinet ministers that angered many in the economically struggling nation, directing the prime minister to report his findings by Feb. 4.
The furor comes at a fraught moment for Zelenskiy, who has found himself in the middle of the impeachment case unfolding against President Donald Trump in Washington. Trump stands accused of withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country’s leader to investigate Trump political rival Joe Biden.
In the audio recording that surfaced earlier this week, Honcharuk was heard making what appeared to be disparaging comments about Zelenskiy’s understanding of economics. He called Zelenskiy “a layman” in economics and said the president should be better educated about the national currency.
Zelenskiy, 41, is a 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.
In a Facebook post earlier Friday, Honcharuk praised Zelenskiy as “an example of transparency and decency to me” and argued that the recording was manipulated, but announced that he was submitting a letter of resignation “in order to dispel any doubts about our respect and trust for the president.”