KIEV: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych pledged on Friday to reshuffle the government and mend controversial anti-protest laws next week in an apparent concession to the opposition amid a fresh wave of anti-government protests.
During a meeting with religious figures, Yanukovych promised to make a cabinet reshuffle, grant an amnesty to detained activists and change controversial legislation, which bans the wearing of masks and helmets during public assembly and allows a jail term of up to five years for those blocking public building.
“I will do my best to put an end to this conflict and to stop violence,” said the president, who has launched multi-round talks with opposition leaders to seek a peaceful solution to the ongoing political tensions.
The harsh anti-protest legislation enacted last week seems to become a new protest flashpoint sparking confrontations in which demonstrators threw stones and firebombs at police. At least three people were reported dead and hundreds of others, including police officers, injured during the deadly clashes which erupted last weekend.
Also on Friday, hundreds of protesters occupied the agriculture ministry building in Kiev and seized administrative buildings in seven cities in western and central Ukraine, where support for Yanukovych is thin and people opt for closer ties with the European Union (EU).
The mass rallies against Yanukovych’s rule erupted last November, when he backtracked a free trade deal with the EU, before boiling over into a violent nationwide movement, with demonstrators demanding the impeachment of the president, resignation of the government and dissolution of parliament. PNA