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Europe

Ukraine opposition seeks confidence vote amid protests

© afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-03

Ukraine's opposition was hoping to oust the prime minister in a parliamentary no-confidence vote Tuesday as protesters blocked government buildings in the latest unrest sparked by Kiev’s decision to abandon a trade deal with the EU.

Ukraine's opposition hopes to oust Prime Minister Mykola Azarov with a no-confidence vote on Tuesday as thousands of protesters beseiged government buildings in the latest unrest sparked by Kiev’s decision to abandon a trade deal with the EU following pressure from Russia.

Protesters used flower pots and rubbish bins to block entrances to the cabinet building and the central bank in Kiev, declaring a general strike and calling for the government's resignation.

Oleksandr Yefremov, who heads the Party of Regions faction in parliament, said that lawmakers would vote on a no-confidence motion but said there were no grounds to dismiss the government.

“Our goal is to make sure that the people on Maidan (Independence Square, where the protests are taking place) calm down,” Yefremov said.

Speaker Volodymyr Rybak confirmed to reporters that the unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, which is controlled by Yanukovych's ruling party, would be discussing a no-confidence vote late Tuesday.

Daily protests have been held in Kiev and elsewhere since November 21, when Yanukovych scuttled an agreement that would have established free trade and deepened political cooperation between Ukraine and the European Union. He justified the decision by saying that Ukraine couldn’t afford to risk its key trade ties with Russia.

Yanukovych was also reluctant to free former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, a key EU requirement for signing the trade deal. The European Union considers her 2011 conviction and imprisonment to be politically motivated.

Some 350,000 people rallied in the capital on Sunday and tried to storm President Viktor Yanukovych’s office. Police used tear gas and truncheons to subdue the crowd, injuring dozens.

Lawmakers resign

At least three lawmakers of the governing Party of Regions have already quit in protest since the demonstrations broke out. One of those resigning – Inna Bohoslovska, who was previously a vocal government supporter – called on other legislators to leave the party as well. A top agriculture ministry official also resigned on Monday.

Calls for a strike were being spearheaded by local governments in western Ukraine, where most people speak Ukrainian and lean toward the EU. In the industrial east of the country, people tend to speak Russian and have closer ties to Moscow.

Officials in the western cities of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil announced they were going on strike and called on residents to turn out for protests.

The opposition also was getting some support from Ukraine’s main television channels, which are owned by the country’s wealthy businessmen and have been offering a platform for the protesters’ grievances.

This is a sign that the channels’ owners were unhappy with the refusal to sign the EU deal to salvage ties with Russia, said Natalia Ligacheva, head of media watchdog Telekritika.

“They have become more daring and are letting their newsrooms work the way journalists should work,” Ligacheva said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said through a spokesman that Brussels remains willing to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine.

“It is very impressive to see how many people in Ukraine are ready to stand up for their conviction, for their dream of a Ukraine that shares Europe’s ideas of the rule of law and its values, and seeks closer relations with Europe,” said Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert.

“For the German government, these demonstrations send a very clear message,” he said. “It has to be hoped that ... Yanukovych will hear this message.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)
 

Date created : 2013-12-02

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