In back-to-back moves to try resolving Ukraine’s political crisis, the prime minister submitted his resignation yesterday and parliament repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police.
The twin moves were significant concessions to the protesters who have occupied the capital’s main square for two months and fought sporadically with police for the past 10 days.
Yet key issues remain unresolved in Ukraine’s political crisis, including the opposition’s repeated demands for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to resign and a new election to be held.
Peaceful protests against Yanukovych’s decision to turn toward Russia for a bailout loan instead of signing a deal with the EU turned violent after the president pushed through new laws to crack down on protests and raise prison sentences for creating disorder.
The laws included prohibiting people from wearing helmets and gas masks, which many protesters had done due to fears that riot police would try to violently disperse their demonstrations.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a lawmaker who is one of the opposition’s top figures, hailed parliament’s move.
“We have repealed all the laws against which the whole country rose up,” he said.
The vote yesterday came hours after Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov — one of the government figures most disliked by opposition supporters — submitted his resignation.
Azarov’s resignation must be accepted by the president, but that is likely to be only a formality.
Yanukovych over the weekend had offered the post to Yatsenyuk, but the opposition leader refused.
The opposition also wants amnesty for scores of people arrested in the protests.
However, Yanukovych said on Monday that such an amnesty is possible only if demonstrators agree to clear the streets and vacate the buildings they now occupy.
That condition could be unacceptable to a large segment of the demonstrators.
Parliament was to vote later yesterday on the amnesty measure for protesters.