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Europe

Ukraine protesters evacuate Kiev City Hall

© AFP

Video by Gulliver CRAGG

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-17

Protesters evacuated the City Hall in Ukraine’s capital Kiev on Sunday after occupying it over the past two months, meeting the terms of an amnesty agreement put forth by President Viktor Yanukovich’s government.

In response to the demonstrators’ decision to leave the building, the prosecutor’s office issued a statement saying that the amnesty would come into force from Monday.

It also stated that criminal charges would be dropped against protesters who were arrested between Dec. 27 and Feb. 2 - a period that includes a week of clashes in which six people were killed and hundreds of police and protesters injured.

Meanwhile, the authorities withdrew riot police from barricades in the centre of Kiev, near the city’s Dynamo Kiev football stadium.

Despite the conciliatory moves, the opposition sought to maintain pressure on Yanukovich, telling a rally in Kiev’s Independence Square that he must abandon “dictatorial” powers and let them form a government independent of him. Opposition leaders also made clear that they planned to push parliament to amend the constitution to limit Yanukovich’s powers.

Ukraine has been gripped by political crisis since November, when Yanukovich backed out of a trade agreement with the European Union to negotiate a $15 billion financial aid agreement with Russia instead. What first began as mass demonstrations in Kiev, however, has since expanded to nationwide demonstrations against perceived corruption within Yanukovich’s government.

Concern over amnesty deal

Although Sunday’s evacuation took place peacefully, Western governments have watched the situation in Ukraine unfold with increasing concern.

Switzerland, now chair of the OSCE human rights watchdog, sent an envoy to Kiev to monitor the City Hall evacuation.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she expected the authorities to now close all pending court cases, including house arrests, “to facilitate the political dialogue in parliament this week”.

The opposition said that they had also pulled out of municipal buildings in the country’s west and one part of the southeast. They warned, however, that demonstrators would return to Kiev’s City Hall if the authorities did not follow through with the amnesty deal.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-02-16

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