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Ukraine President Agrees to Lift Anti-Protest Laws

As unrest spread throughout Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovich announced the repeal of the anti-protest laws he passed only weeks ago.

by Neha Shastry
Jan 28 2014, 12:57am

Photo by Klimentiya Dimid

After a weekend in which Ukraine’s political crisis continued to simmer in Kiev and spread further outside the capital, President Viktor Yanukovich agreed to lift anti-protest laws that had helped spark deadly confrontations between protesters and police during the past week.

Yanukovich first offered the prime ministership to opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk over the weekend, but Yatsenyuk turned it down, no doubt in part because Yanukovich would have retained enough political power to render the prime minister largely powerless. Protesters occupied the Ministry of Justice on Sunday, but retreated later that day when Justice Minister Elena Lukash threatened to ask the National Security and Defense Council to declare a state of emergency.

Events then took a bizarre turn on Monday, when a 55-year-old man was found hanging dead inside the steel structure of the artificial “New Year Tree” in Kiev’s Independence Square. The metal tree has become a symbol of government opposition, and is adorned with a poster of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Police have removed the body, and investigations are underway to determine the cause of death.

A special parliament session is scheduled for Tuesday, where Yanukovich is expected to officially repeal the laws banning protests he forced through the parliament just a couple of weeks ago. The protests have now been taking place for about two months.

“Eliminating the laws … would be a substantial concession to the opposition. But it does not meet all their demands, which include Yanukovich's resignation," Justice Minister Elena Lukash warned in a statement on the president’s website.