Ukraine releases all detained protesters

President calls for opposition to yield some ground as authorities announce release of hundreds of demonstrators.

    Ukraine's leader has called for the opposition to yield some ground as authorities announced the release of hundreds of detained protesters days ahead of a mass, anti-government demonstration.

    The move appeared to be a concession from the government of Viktor Yanukovich, but is unlikely to appease protesters, who for more than two months have been occupying Kiev's central Independence Square and nearby buildings in a bid to oust the president

    "I don't want to wage war," Yanukovich said in a televised interview. "I want to safeguard the state and resume a stable development. We are asking the opposition to also make concessions."

    Ukraine's attorney general Viktor Pshonka also announced on Friday that "234 people were arrested between December 26 and February 2. None of them are in custody any more".

    He added that if the amnesty law's condition was met, all charges, some carrying sentences of up to 15 years in jail, would be dropped over a month starting from February 18.

    But he set one condition, that protesters evacuate all public buildings they are occupying, such as Kiev city hall next to Independence Square, the AFP news agency reported.

    'Peaceful offensive'

    At least six people have lost their lives since demonstrations began in November when Yanukovich decided not to sign a trade agreement with the EU, opting instead for closer ties with Russia.

    The only subject of negotiation with Yanukovich are the conditions of his departure

    Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed opposition leader

    While the president initially ignored opposition demands, he yielded some ground after protests turned deadly at the end of January, dismissing the government and signing a law agreeing to amnesty all detainees.

    The protest movement shows no sign of dying down, with protesters rebuilding and fortifying barricades on the square to keep riot police out of their anti-government enclave.

    Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minster who is now in jail, has said that the only condition that will satisfy demonstrators is the departure of Yanukovich himself.

    "The only subject of negotiation with Yanukovich are the conditions of his departure," she said in an interview with weekly Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.

    The mass demonstration on Sunday will be the 11th since the protest movement erupted, and will kick off at midday at the heart of the sprawling, barricaded tent city on Independence Square.

    "The main issue which will be addressed will be a peaceful offensive by activists so that the demonstrators' requirements are fulfilled," Tymoshenko's party said in a statement late Thursday.

    It did not detail what form this "peaceful offensive" would take.

    'Spheres of influence'

    Aside from the release of detained protesters and the abandoning of charges against them, the opposition has a number of demands it says have not been addressed, and impatience is taking hold.

    The opposition has demanded that a new pro-West government be established.

    Arseniy Yatsenyuk, an opposition leader who has been offered the premiership, has said he may accept if other opposition members receive key government positions, AFP reported.

    He also wants the constitution to be amended to reduce presidential powers in favour of parliament and government, but debate on this reform does not seem to be progressing.

    Outside the country, the crisis continued to stoke wider tensions between Russia and Western countries tussling over Ukraine's future, with Moscow accusing the European Union on Friday of trying to extend its "sphere of influence" in the country. 

    Yanukovich, a day earlier, said Ukraine should not allow anyone to interfere in its business and said he supported positive relations with all the major powers, the Reuters news agency reported.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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