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Ukraine parliament passes amnesty law

Measure offers amnesty to arrested protesters, but only if demonstrators vacate the government buildings they occupy.

Last updated: 30 Jan 2014 07:57
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Ukraine's parliament has adopted a law that offers amnesty to dozens of arrested anti-government protesters, but only if opposition demonstrators vacate most of the government buildings they occupy and demolish their barricades.

The legislation, supported by 232 members of parliament on Wednesday night, gave protesters 15 days to meet the conditions of the authorities. Two politicians abstained from voting and 11 others went against it.

The politicians had been debating about the move since Tuesday, but did not reach the agreement. On Wednesday, they agreed not to leave the parliament building until the final decision was made.

An earlier version of the proposed law only offered amnesty if all protests dispersed.

'Revolution will continue'

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 anti-government demonstrators have set up a large tent camp and are conducting round-the-clock rallies since mid November.

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, anti-government protester

Protesters are demanding Yanukovich's resignation, early elections and the firing of authorities responsible for violent police dispersals of demonstrators.

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."

The amnesty bill would not apply to several city buildings in the centre of Kiev which the protesters use as dormitories and operation centres, and are key support facilities for the extensive protest tent camp on the main square.

Tamila Varshalomidze reporting from Ukraine

With temperatures dropping as low as -20 Celsius during the night, continuing the protests without places to shelter would be virtually impossible.

But the Kiev city hall building, as well as regional administration ones seized by protesters in western Ukrainian cities, will have to be vacated, according to the Unian news agency.

'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 Al Jazeera's Tamila Varshalomidze on Twitter: @tamila87v 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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