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Yanukovych offers amnesty, repeals anti-protest laws

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (C) stands during a family picture at the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in this November 29, 2013 picture. REUTERS/eu2013.lt/Handout via Reuters

KIEV: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych Friday signed a law offering an amnesty to jailed opposition activists and repealed controversial laws cracking down on protests, his office said.

The amnesty bill passed by Parliament Wednesday gives protesters a 15-day deadline to vacate the public buildings they have occupied in order for it to be implemented.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the measures did not go far enough. “The offers ... have not yet reached an adequate level of reform,” he told reporters after talks in Berlin with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

He said that Yanukovych needed to go beyond the amnesty law and the repeal of anti-protest laws.

Kerry said if there were signs of real progress in including the opposition in power, the United States would then encourage the demonstrators to cooperate in the interest of “unity” and peace “because further violence and violence that gets out of control is not in anybody’s interest.”

Under the amnesty law, protesters will have to vacate the flashpoint Grushevsky Street in Kiev, where several activists were shot dead during bitter clashes with security forces during a recent outbreak of violence.

They will also have to leave the streets and squares they have been occupying “except those where peaceful protest actions are taking place.”

This opens the possibility that protesters could be allowed to stay at on Kiev’s Independence Square.

Yanukovych, who Thursday went on indefinite sick leave, also signed legislation scrapping draconian anti-protest laws passed earlier this month which radicalized the two-month protest movement.

The laws had made the occupation of public buildings punishable by up to five years in prison, outlawed protest convoys of more than five cars and imposed a ban on protesters wearing masks or helmets.

The measures are unlikely to placate opposition leaders, who are gearing up to meet Kerry and other senior foreign officials in Germany this weekend. 

 

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