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May 22, 2022

Ukraine crisis: Opposition MPs seek to curb president’s powers

Ukraine’s opposition MPs have been calling for constitutional changes that would give parliament greater control over the formation of governments, the BBC reports. They are pushing for laws that will reduce the power of the president.
There were emotional scenes as government and opposition MPs debated at the session starting parliament’s new term.
Opposition leaders are ramping up pressure on President Viktor Yanukovych after weeks of anti-government unrest.
The leader of the opposition Udar (Punch) Party and former world heavyweight boxing champion, Vitaliy Klitschko, told parliament new elections were crucial to regain the trust of the people.
“I call on everyone to take the constitutional route and stop dictatorship. Let us reinstate the constitution that allows MPs to take decisions instead of just pushing buttons.
But the leader of President Yanukovych’s Regions Party in parliament, Oleksandr Yefremov, accused the opposition of being irresponsible. In an emotional speech delivered amid shouting, he warned of consequences if the conflict continued.
“Ukraine is going through perhaps the most dramatic period in its recent history. Any further escalation of the conflict may lead to civil confrontation and result in catastrophic consequences,” he said.
At one point during the proceedings, some opposition MPs shouted “murderers!”. They were referring to the death of protesters over recent weeks as anti-government activists clashed with riot police. Protesters blame the government for the deaths, but officials reject these accusations.
On Monday, President Yanukovych’s representative in parliament, Yuriy Miroshnychenko, told the AFP news agency that the president could call early elections if there were no other ways out of the crisis.
The opposition says return to the 2004 constitution would cancel the “dictatorial authority” of the president. However, correspondents say party allegiances have been fluid and it is unclear if the opposition can rally a majority in parliament over the issue. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was to return to Kiev on Tuesday and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is due to visit later this week.
Their visits come after Mr Yatsenyuk asked for a “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine – a reference to the US aid package for Europe after World War Two.
The US state department said Washington and Brussels were in preliminary discussions on financial help for Ukraine if a new, technocrat government is formed.
Moscow, which has conditionally offered a $15bn aid package to Ukraine, has criticised the EU and other Western countries for intervening in the dispute.

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