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Ukraine Protests Continue Despite Amnesty Offer

Ukraine On Brink Of Civil War, Warns Former Presidenti
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January 30, 2014 2:48 AM
Ukraine’s former president has warned that the country is on the brink of civil war after two months of anti-government protests. Lawmakers are debating an amnesty bill for detained protesters, with supporters of President Yanukovych demanding that demonstrators leave government buildings. But the protesters say they will only leave their barricades after the downfall of the entire government, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from Kyiv.

Watch related video from VOA's Henry Ridgwell

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Ukrainian anti-government protesters are vowing to continue demonstrating despite passage of a law offering amnesty to those arrested during the protests over the past two months.

"They voted for these laws only in their own interests. They want us to evacuate all buildings, like Kyiv city hall where we still have a chance to warm up as its minus 20 outside right now, but they won't do anything because we saw how they canceled laws that were adopted on the 16th of January, but Yanukovych has yet to sign this decision. They only sign the laws they need," said one protester, explaining the thinking behind the refusal.

The parliament approved the measure late Wednesday, offering amnesty to those detained only if the anti-government groups abandon the public buildings they are occupying.

Lawmakers passed the measure Wednesday night, but the opposition in parliament opposed the move. Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk described the condition that protesters vacate the buildings as "unacceptable".

Protests in Kyiv

  • An opposition supporter looks on as he warms himself next to a fire in a barricade near Kyiv's Independence Square, Jan. 31, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters march in central Kyiv, Jan. 31, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters march in central Kyiv, Jan. 31, 2014.
  • An opposition supporter stands next to a burning tire at a barricade in central Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
  • Riot police stand in a cordon facing anti-government protesters as temperatures stand at minus 20 degrees Celsius at a barricade near Independence Square in Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters walk in the tent city at Independence Square in Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
  • Protesters, with signs reading "Mother" on their chests, and ""The government don't kill our children," walk away from a police cordon in central Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
  • Members of various anti-government paramilitary groups walk in formation during a show of force in Kyiv, Jan. 29, 2014. 
  • Members of various anti-government paramilitary groups attend a religious service at a chapel in Kyiv, Jan. 29, 2014. 
  • A protest camp in Independence Square, Kyiv, Jan. 28, 2014. (H. Ridgwell/VOA)
  • Protest camps in Independence Square, Kyiv, Jan. 28, 2013. (H. Ridgwell/VOA)

In an interview with VOA's Russian service, the newly-elected president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Anne Brasseur, said her organization should help the country resolve the crisis.

Ukraine - Key Dates

2013

  • Nov. 21: Ukraine suspends plans to sign EU association agreement
  • Nov. 30: Riot police crack down on anti-government protesters in Kyiv
  • Dec. 17: Russia offers $15 billion in loans and slashes gas prices

2014

  • Jan. 16: Ukraine parliament passes anti-protest law
  • Jan. 22: Protests spread, two protesters shot and killed in Kyiv clashes
  • Jan. 25: President Viktor Yanukovych offers government posts to top opposition leaders
  • Jan. 28: Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigns, parliament repeals laws restricting protests
  • Jan. 29: Parliament approves law offering amnesty to detained protesters if demonstrators abandon occupied buildings
"We should help the Ukrainians emerge from crisis, without going into the details of their domestic policy and the path which they want to walk. We cannot violate Ukraine's sovereignty," she said, adding that an urgent debate is planned on Thursday to discuss the Ukraine situation.

"Dialogue is the only way to move forward," Brasseur added. " If the assembly can help in the beginning of this dialogue, we will be happy to bring representatives of the authorities and the opposition together in this conversation."

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president's web page said President Viktor Yanukovych is on sick leave due to acute respiratory disease accompanied by fever. It did not say how long he would be on leave or whether he will be trying to work at all during that time.

Demonstrators first took to the streets in November when President Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Wednesday that even if the opposition comes to power in Ukraine, Moscow will make good on its pledge of a $15 billion loan to Ukraine, along with substantial natural gas discounts.

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