Ukraine's opposition leaders remained defiant on Wednesday, refusing to back an amnesty bill that would free detained activists if protesters agreed to vacate the government buildings they have occupied in Kiev and elsewhere.
The amnesty bill was passed by parliament with the backing of the ruling Regions Party in a chaotic late-night session but opposition MPs refused to vote, unhappy that the law remains conditional on protesters leaving occupied buildings before it takes effect.
Svoboda (Freedom) party leader Oleg Tyagnybok said that parliament had essentially admitted to taking dozens of "hostages" arrested during the crisis, who would now be held until the buildings are vacated.
"The authorities have now admitted they take hostages like terrorists do, so that they can then barter over them," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
He added that the law had been adopted despite gross violations of parliamentary rules, calling it “absolutely illegitimate".
UDAR (Punch) party leader and onetime world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko warned: "Instead of lowering the temperature in society, this is going to raise it."
President Viktor Yanukovich has made several concessions to the protesters who have occupied camps in the centre of Kiev for the last two months, including accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who resigned on Tuesday along with his entire government.
The opposition says it will not let up until Yanukovich resigns from the presidency, but so far there is little sign that he plans to step down.
The president is "firmly intent" on holding onto power and will likely use force or illegal steps to counter popular protests, US intelligence chief James Clapper has said.
The opposition is also demanding early elections and the sacking of those responsible for the violent crackdowns on demonstrations over the past several weeks.
Protests began in November when Yanukovich pulled out of a key EU trade deal after coming under pressure from Russia. He subsequently signed a raft of deals with Moscow, fuelling protesters’ anger.
In an earlier concession to the opposition, parliament on Tuesday moved to revoke laws passed January 16 that had criminalised several forms of protest.
Three activists were shot dead in clashes between police and protesters in Kiev last week but tensions have eased somewhat since then as negotiations between the government and the opposition gained traction.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence to push for "constructive dialogue" in Ukraine, her office said Wednesday, only to be told by Putin that "any outside interference is unacceptable" in the crisis.
Putin said this week that Russia would wait until a new government is formed in Ukraine before it considers releasing the entirety of a promised $15 billion bailout package for Kiev.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
In photos: Ukraine protests
Despite President Yanukovich’s concessions, protesters spent Tuesday reinforcing the barricades protecting their camp in Independence Square. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
Mothers of protesters implore riot police to show restraint. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
One of the mothers approaches the police line to talk directly to the security forces. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
The frozen ground is littered with debris from last week’s clashes: stones, Molotov cocktails, buckshot cartridges, etc. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
Despite the ongoing negotiations between the government and opposition, the protesters remain on their guard. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
The leader of the nationalist Svoboda party, Oleh Tyahnybok, urges his followers to stay mobilised in a speech at Independence Square. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
Cohorts of armed ultra-nationalists leave the barricades to listen to the Svoboda leader speak. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
Organised along paramilitary lines, these nationalist groups are now more visible than the pro-Europe demonstrators that formed the majority at the start of the protests. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
Ivan has come from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine to support the anti-Yanukovich movement. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
Kiev bus driver Aleksander says the government’s concessions are far from sufficient. Photo: Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24.
Date created : 2014-01-30