Home Business Economy & Politics Ukraine’s parliament debates protest amnesty

Ukraine’s parliament debates protest amnesty

Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine’s first post-independence president, has warned the country is on the “brink of civil War” as parliament debates an amnesty for protesters.

Leonid Kravchuk, president from 1991 to 1994, opened the debate in parliament by urging everyone involved to “act with the greatest responsibility”.

President Viktor Yanukovych wants any amnesty conditional on demonstrators leaving official buildings.

The opposition has so far ruled this out and is demanding early elections.

On Tuesday, PM Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned after months of protests.

Parliament also scrapped a controversial anti-protest law in the biggest concession yet to opposition protesters.

Leonid Kravchuk earned a standing ovation in parliament after telling members that “all the world acknowledges and Ukraine acknowledges that the state is on the brink of civil war”.

“It is a revolution. It is a dramatic situation in which we must act with the greatest responsibility,” he said.

Demonstrations began in November when President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a planned trade deal with the EU in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia to bolster ailing public finances in the former Soviet state.

President Viktor Yanukovych wants any amnesty conditional on demonstrators leaving official buildings

President Viktor Yanukovych wants any amnesty conditional on demonstrators leaving official buildings

The White House on Tuesday said the issue of a possible amnesty for scores of detained protesters had been raised in a telephone conversation between Vice-President Joe Biden and President Viktor Yanukovych.

The White House said Joe Biden welcomed “progress made” and called on Viktor Yanukovych to sign the repeal of several anti-protest laws.

On Tuesday, PM Mykola Azarov said he was stepping down to create “social and political compromise”. His deputy, Serhiy Arbuzov, has stepped in as interim leader.

Members of his cabinet also resigned, but they can remain in their posts for 60 days until a new government is formed.

Parliament, in an emergency debate on Tuesday, voted to repeal anti-protest legislation, which among other measures banned the wearing of helmets by protesters and the blockading of public buildings.

Correspondents say Mykola Azarov was deeply unpopular with the opposition, who accused him of mismanaging the economy and failing to tackle corruption.

Meanwhile, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has criticized what he called foreign “interference” in Ukraine.

Speaking at the end of an EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Tuesday, Vladimir Putin said visits by overseas envoys were adding to the unrest.

“I think that the Ukrainian people are capable of solving this on their own,” he said.

“I can only imagine how our European partners would respond if in the heat of a crisis in a country like Greece or Cyprus, our foreign minister would appear at one of their anti-European rallies and begin addressing them.”

Correspondents say Vladimir Putin’s comments appear to be a thinly veiled criticism of the EU and other Western nations that have sent a string of diplomats to Ukraine in recent weeks.

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