Ukraine's parliament votes to repeal anti-protest laws
Ukraine's parliament votes to repeal anti-protest laws

KIEV: Ukraine’s parliament votes to repeal anti-protest laws

The Ukrainian Parliament has scrapped a set of wide-ranging laws meant to quell public protests.

On Tuesday, less than two weeks after the parliament’s undemocratic passage of anti-protest legislation, it was voted down by 361 to 2.

The parliament, known as Verkhovna Rada, held an emergency debate in an effort to resolve the stand-off with opposition.

“Our condition for the amnesty is to release all the people except for the killers,” explained Arseniy Yatseniuk, one of the three main opposition leaders. “Amnesty doesn’t apply to murders, kidnapping, and torture, but it applies to all the rest.”
A few hundred meters from the heavily-guarded Parliament building, the protestors were sceptical of the concessions.

Singer and poet Serhiy Fomenko – a local hero among protestors on Independence Square – says the repealing of the laws will not be enough to end the protests.

“The resignation of the Prime Minister and the repealing of the new laws are just two steps, and they are not enough,” Fomenko said. “There are many other problems that must be addressed – the police brutality, the corruption. People are being beaten, kidnapped and tortured.”

Ihor Mazur, a member of the right-wing nationalist group called Pravyi Sector or Right Sector, which has a large presence in Independence Square, says the protestors will not leave until all their demands are met.

“We must not abandon our protest camps,” Mazur warned. “We are not so naïve to believe that the government, this regime can change in just a couple of months. It will take time to change from within.”

President Yanukovich’s supporters in Parliament have vowed to push for a state of emergency to be declared if the opposition refuses to call on protestors to leave government buildings. That could see police and the military move to clear the protest camps.

But the protestors won’t give up their territory without a fight.

They are reinforcing the barricades. Sacks filled with hard-packed snow and looped with razor wire block every entrance to Independence Square and surrounding streets. Protestors wearing helmets and armed with clubs and knives man the narrow entrances.

Meanwhile the anti-government demonstrations continue to grow in cities beyond Kiev. As Ukrainian lawmakers seek a peaceful end to the crisis, the atmosphere on the streets remains extremely tense.


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