KIEV: Ukraine’s parliament has approved a bill, which envisions amnesty for participants of ongoing mass protests, that has been drafted by Yury Miroshnichenko, President Viktor Yanukovich’s envoy to the Ukrainian parliament.
With 226 votes required to pass the draft law, 232 MPs backed it. The bill envisions a pardon for all people who took part in riots during mass anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine except for those who committed grave crimes.
The document says protesters should vacate state institutions they seized in Kiev and other regions of the country within 15 days. The bill’s adoption was preceded by lengthy and heated debates in parliamentary factions with Yanukovich’s participation.
Anti-government protests in Ukraine started after Kiev refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union at a summit in Vilnius in November and decided to seek closer integration with Russia instead.
A new wave of protests erupted in the Ukrainian capital in mid-January to spread across the country after parliament passed a set of laws on violations of public order. Protesters across the country stormed and seized government buildings demanding the authorities’ resignation. At least three protesters are believed to have been killed in violent clashes with police. The Interior Ministry claims up to 200 policemen have been injured since the protests began.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, who led Ukraine’s Cabinet of ministers since December 13, 2012, tendered his resignation Tuesday. President Viktor Yanukovich accepted it, the head of state’s press service reported.
Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Svoboda (Freedom) party, Oleg Tyagnibok, said rallies on Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti in the Ukrainian language) in downtown Kiev would continue
“Maidan will not disperse,” Tyagnibok said after his country’s unicameral parliament adopted the amnesty bill. He claimed that by adopting the draft law, the Ukrainian authorities are trying to shift the responsibility for the situation in the country to the opposition.
An MP from the opposition Batkivshchina party, Andrei Paruby, said the opposition would not abide by the amnesty law that stipulates that protesters should unblock administrative buildings.
“I am going to people who are on Maidan now, and we will tighten security,” he said, adding that the opposition did not rule out that police would use force to disperse protesters.
Meanwhile, the author of the amnesty bill, Yury Miroshnichenko, an MP from the ruling Party of Regions, told Itar-Tass that police would not use force to disperse protesters in any circumstances. He said the amnesty bill would enter into force immediately after Yanukovich signed it and the law was published in official media.
Miroshnichenko also told Itar-Tass that the bill opens opportunities for peaceful protesters “to overcome the crisis.”
“This law does not mean Maidan’s dispersal. Peaceful protests will continue,” he said. PNA