Ukraine protests continue despite amnesty offer


Protesters in Ukraine have rejected the terms of a new amnesty law aimed at ending the country’s recent unrest. Viktor Yanukovych is on sick leave.

Parliament backed an amnesty for detainees if protesters vacated the government buildings they had occupied and unblocked streets and squares, the BBC reports. The opposition has rejected this and protesters remain camped out in central Kiev and still occupy key buildings. The protests began in November after President Viktor Yanukovych (photo) reversed a decision to sign an EU trade deal.
The new amnesty law will not come into effect unless protesters leave the local administration buildings they have occupied across Ukraine within 15 days. The pro-EU protesters have taken over a number of properties in Kiev and other cities which they are using as operation centres and dormitories, and to seek refuge from the freezing conditions outside. The text of the amnesty document says they must remove the barricades they have built in central Kiev and unblock other streets and squares across the country – except in places where protests are peaceful.
The amnesty is the latest of a number of concessions from President Yanukovych to try to end the unrest, including the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet and the repeal of new anti-protest laws. However, the opposition abstained from voting on the amnesty law on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the president’s web page said President Viktor Yanukovych is on sick leave due to acute respiratory disease accompanied by fever, the Voice of America reported. It did not say how long he would be on leave or whether he will be trying to work at all during that time.
Demonstrators first took to the streets in November when President Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Wednesday that even if the opposition comes to power in Ukraine, Moscow will make good on its pledge of a USD 15 billion loan to Ukraine, along with substantial natural gas discounts.
Boxer-turned-protest leader Vitali Klitschko told crowds gathered in Independence Square in Kiev that the fight would go on.
An MP for the Fatherland party, Andriy Parubiy, told 5 Kanal TV: “The demands that they have set are unacceptable and nobody is going to fulfil them. We said that the law should come into force without any prior conditions. Our position remains unchanged.”
Another MP, Inna Bohoslovska, told 5 Kanal that the amnesty law was a stalling device. “They will use these 15 days during which buildings should be vacated in order to get rid of everyone they believe will not submit at the first snap of their fingers and gather forces for a real attack on their own people.
“So we have to prepare to defend ourselves.” Protesters on the streets also showed defiance.  On Wednesday, Ukraine’s first post-independence president, Leonid Kravchuk, warned the country was on the “brink of civil war”.
And visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was “shocked” by the deadly violence. Moscow, meanwhile, has indicated that it may hold back some of a promised bailout package until a new government is formed. The loans were widely seen as a reward for Kiev’s rejection of the EU deal. Meanwhile the US is preparing financial sanctions against both officials and protest leaders should the violence worsen, according to US congressional aides. They said the details of the package had not been worked out but it could be imposed quickly should the situation deteriorate.

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