• Ukraine opposition rejects amnesty bill


    KIEV: Ukraine’s opposition on Thursday vowed further protests after defiantly rejecting an amnesty bill to free activists and ease the former Soviet country’s worse crisis since independence.

    The parliament passed an amnesty bill late Wednesday with backing from the ruling Regions Party, but the opposition rejected its conditions and a breakthrough appeared unlikely.

    President Viktor Yanukovych has granted several concessions to protesters who have packed the center of Kiev for the last two months, including accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. But the opposition wants the head of state to go.

    European Union (EU) Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton said after meeting Yanukovych that it was time for “real dialogue” to start and for “the violence and intimidation” to stop.

    In a move that is likely to complicate matters further, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow would wait until a new government is formed in Ukraine before it considers releasing a crucial $15-billion bailout package for Kiev in full.

    Analysts say the Kremlin may back out of the deal if it saw a staunchly anti-Russian government come to power in Ukraine, and the EU may end up having to bail out the former Soviet nation.

    Three activists were shot dead in clashes in Kiev last week, but tensions have calmed somewhat since negotiations between the government and the opposition gained traction.

    However, there still appears to be no easy way out of a crisis which will influence the future orientation of the nation of 46 million people sandwiched between Russia and the EU.

    Putin on Wednesday discussed the crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said, stressing that “any outside interference is unacceptable.”

    Merkel for her part told Putin to push for a “constructive dialogue” to defuse the crisis in Ukraine, her office said.



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