Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday refused to accept the resignation of the country’s prime minister, saying he wanted to give Oleksiy Goncharuk “a second chance” in the job.
The prime minister offered to quit earlier Friday after a leaked recording emerged of him questioning President Zelensky’s grasp of economics.
“I have decided to give you and your government a second chance,” Zelensky said during a meeting with Goncharuk.
Zelensky, a comedian with no previous political experience, came to power in a landslide victory in last year’s presidential election.
His “Servant of the People” party later won a large majority in parliament.
He has been embroiled in the US impeachment process and faced tough talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but had so far managed to avoid any significant domestic political problems.
The audio recording was leaked on social media on Wednesday and came from an informal meeting between ministers and senior officials from the National Bank in December.
According to local media reports, the participants discussed how to explain recent economic developments to Zelensky.
“Zelensky has a very primitive understanding of economic processes, or rather a simple understanding,” Goncharuk said on the recording, adding that he himself was an economic “ignoramus”.
After initially denying reports he would step down, Goncharuk announced on his official Facebook page on Friday that he had offered to resign.
In his statement released in a video by the presidency, Zelensky made no mention of the leaked comments but urged the prime minister to “improve the cooperation with parliament and to optimise the salaries of government officials”.
The payment of large bonuses to officials has caused a scandal in recent weeks in the former Soviet republic. one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Under Ukrainian law, it is up to parliament to accept or reject a prime minister’s resignation.
Zelensky enjoys an absolute majority in the assembly.