Ukraine's Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, file picImage copyright
EPA

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Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk has not yet officially resigned

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk has tendered his resignation after a leaked audio recording apparently revealed him criticising the president.

A voice sounding like Honcharuk’s, but not officially confirmed as his, says President Volodymyr Zelensky only has a “primitive” understanding of economics.

Honcharuk also appears to admit that he himself is not good at economics.

Mr Zelensky, a TV comedian and businessman, was elected last April.

The audiotape affair comes at a difficult time for him, as his relations with President Donald Trump are under intense scrutiny. The US president is being impeached for allegedly trying to pressure Mr Zelensky into investigating political rival Joe Biden.

It remains unclear whether Mr Honcharuk genuinely intends to step down, Reuters news agency reports, quoting him as saying “do not jump to conclusions”, when asked about his resignation.

The controversial audiotape was uploaded to an anonymous YouTube channel on Wednesday evening. Mr Honcharuk, 35, was apparently discussing the national budget with some other government ministers and finance chiefs.

Writing on social media, Mr Honcharuk said the recordings had been edited from several fragments of government meetings to create the false impression that he did not respect the president.

Mr Zelensky’s office has confirmed receiving the resignation offer and says the president will now decide whether to accept it.

In a Facebook post, Mr Honcharuk wrote that Mr Zelensky was “a model of honesty for me”, but “to remove any doubts about our respect and trust in the president, I wrote a resignation offer”.

“He is a man in whom Ukrainians have expressed unprecedented confidence. And he has every right to evaluate the effectiveness of every member of his team.”

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Media captionVolodymyr Zelensky arrived for his inauguration with high fives and selfies

In the audiotape voices resembling those of top government officials can be heard discussing Ukraine’s economic situation and the president’s supposedly distorted understanding of it.

Some Ukrainian commentators have speculated that the leak may be a deliberate attempt to destabilise Mr Zelensky’s government, and there are questions about its authenticity.