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Ukraine: the authorities and the opposition “exchange” laws

January 30, 2014, 21:06 UTC+3 KIEV
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KIEV, January 30. /ITAR-TASS/. No protest rallies were noticed on Kiev’s Independence Square on Thursday morning for the first time in recent months. No speeches, no prayers and no music… Not a single person could be seen in front of the platform, and only pedestrians who were not less surprised with what they saw hurried to work past the square. At one moment it could seem that the demonstrators stopped their infinite rally after the Ukrainian parliament had met in an extraordinary night session and that the crisis between the government and the opposition will gradually be settled. Ordinary people hoped that a period of tough resistance was over and that the barricades and the tent camp would be taken down in central Kiev, police would be withdrawn from its positions and radicals would vacate all official buildings in Kiev and regional centers and streets would be cleaned from dirt, rubble and concrete encirclements. In short, the first impression was that life was slowly returning back to normal.

However, one should not indulge in wishful thinking. Bitter frost and exhaustion must have driven the inhabitants of Independence Square to their tents and heating points in the seized government buildings. Naturally, they are not going to leave either today or tomorrow…The opposition leaders who had returned from parliament or Verkhovnaya Rada the night before urged their supporters to go ahead with the protests. Despite deputies passing a law on amnesty for scores of detained protesters who committed offences during the mass riots, the opposition seemed to be extremely dissatisfied with the move and called on their supporters to stay on the square! First, the opposition leaders claimed the bill had been passed with serious violations of regulations. The second and more vital reason is a pre-condition set forth by the law: the amnesty will start working only after the protesters vacate all official buildings and take down barricades on streets and roads. That should happen upon the expiration of 15 days since the law comes in force. There will be no amnesty if this condition is not met. For well-known reasons, this condition had made the opposition particularly angry. Almost all observers have noticed that the opposition leaders have lost much of their influence on the protesters, especially its radical part.

Oleg Tyagnibok, the leader of the Svoboda (Freedom) parliamentary faction, called for further protest actions.

“We are together with the protesters on Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The authorities are trying to quarrel us. We will continue our actions. The protesters won’t disperse,” Tyagnibok said. He said that the authorities were trying to make the opposition responsible for the situation in the country. His opinion was echoed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) faction in parliament. “The authorities are using the law to close the Maidan,” Yatsenyuk stressed.

Vitaly Klichko, the leader of the UDAR party (Ukraine’s Democratic Alliance for Reforms), also expressed his solidarity with Tyagnibok and Yatsenyuk.

”The Party of Regions has been trying to push the amnesty bill through parliament the whole day, and they did that!” Klichko said.

“They are demanding that they we vacate all the streets, government buildings in regions and the Independence square in Kiev in exchange for releasing the detained protesters. We suggested releasing them without any preconditions,” Klichko said. He believed that the new bill would only add fuel to the fire.

In the meantime, temperatures in Kiev are falling and more bitter frosts are expected soon. The authorities and the opposition have “exchanged” laws. The deputies have met the opposition’s demand to repeal a package of laws adopted on January 16. Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov has resigned. The Ukrainian parliament has adopted a law on an amnesty for detained protesters in a version suggested by the Party of Regions…The next few days will show whether the ice was broken or “the Ukrainian winter” will go on.

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