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Ukraine considers amnesty for protesters

Special session in parliament to vote on bill to release activists is latest attempt to dampen anti-government protests.

Last updated: 29 Jan 2014 20:04
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Kiev, Ukraine - Ukraine's parliament has held a special session to vote on a bill that could see dozens of anti-government activists freed but protesters in Kiev, the capital, said it would not stop their battle against President Viktor Yanukovich.

The debate over the possible new law on Wednesday was seen as an attempt to placate anti-government demonstrators by releasing those detained during two months of increasingly bitter protests.

But the opposition has yet to meet conditions the government has demanded if the bill is to be passed, including that they leave buildings they have occupied.

Protesters in Kiev's Independence Square, some of them manning barricades and calling themselves "fighters", told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that an amnesty would not affect the "spirit of the revolution". 

"We are not here for the amnesty. We are here to get rid of the mafia in the country. It doesn’t really matter whether they release the activists or not. The revolution will continue," Borgan Kurtiak, an anti-government protester said. 

The protests broke out after the government of Yanokovich pulled out of a trade deal with the European Union and took a bailout from Russia instead. Demonstrators have since added to their list of grievances accusing Yanokovich of corruption, human rights abuses and misrule.

The demonstrations turned violent after parliament adopted a set of tough anti-protest laws on January 16 and the unrest then spread to other regions. Some of those laws were abolished on Tuesday.

Another protester, a veteran of the first Afghan war who said he has trained young demonstrators in "self-defence", said any amnesty for detained demonstrators would be "a huge plus" in favour of the government.

"All of those people who were standing here were not all radicals, but ordinary, peaceful citizens of Kiev and all over Ukraine," Nikolai, who did not give his surname, told Al Jazeera.

"Those who used force against them are escaping responsibility while the ones who were protecting their right to free speech are suffering. For us, the amnesty is not just a condition, but a natural thing."

'Internal affair'

A government supporter, who was demonstrating near the parliament building with thousands of others, told Al Jazeera that a mass amnesty was unacceptable.

"The authorities should first investigate them so that protesters who committed crimes are not freed," Anton Fenko said. 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Kiev on Tuesday to take part in talks between the government and the opposition, but both pro- and anti-government demonstrators told Al Jazeera that neither Russia or the European Union should interfere in the affairs of Ukraine.

"It is our internal affair. Our democracy is ours. We have chosen the path to democracy, but by no means should we lose our roots that used to tie us with Russia and Belarus," said Nikolai.

Follow Tamila Varshalomidze on Twitter : @tamila87v 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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