Ukraine scraps protest laws as PM steps down

Parliament repeals controversial legislation and PM quits in moves opposition says are “small steps to victory”.

Ukraine’s parliament has scrapped draconian anti-protest laws and its prime minister has resigned, in moves aimed at ending a two-month standoff with demonstrators.

The decision on the protests laws was made in a special parliamentary session in Kiev on Tuesday, shortly before which the prime minister, Mykola Azarov, offered to stand down in a bid to ease tensions between protesters and the government.

Azarov’s resignation was accepted by the president, Viktor Yanukovich. However, opposition leaders, who have called for the removal of the president, described the moves as “a step to victory”.

Al Jazeera’s Nick Spicer, reporting from Kiev, said the prime minister was regarded as responsible for much of the violence during the crackdown on protesters.

“The prime minister was despised by the people on the streets. He was seen as responsible for the crackdowns,” he said.

“The opposition said this was a small step. A big step would be the resignation of the president.”

Tough laws

The anti-protest laws, which restricted movement and assembly, and threatened tough jail terms for transgressors, had been passed earlier this month as demonstrations against Yanukovich continued unabated for two months.

Originally the protests were over the government’s failure to sign an EU trade deal, but the anti-protest laws added another level to the demonsrations.

The laws punished the occupation of public buildings with up to five years in prison, outlawed protest convoys of more than five cars and imposed a ban opposition activists from wearing masks or helmets.

Protesters had also started receiving text messages saying they were registered as taking place in mass disturbance.

The president hopes their repeal,and the resignation of Azarov, will put an end to the escalating violence that saw the protests turn deadly last week.

‘Step to victory’

Azarov said he was offering to step down “with the aim of creating extra means for finding a social-political compromise, for the sake of a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

But in reality he had been publicly humiliated by Yanukovych’s offer at the weekend to give his job to former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, one of the opposition’s leaders, in an effort to stem the rising protests against his rule. Yatsenyuk turned the role down.

The opposition has been calling for the resignation of the Azarov government since the onset of the crisis.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko said Azarov’s announcement was only “a step to victory”.

“For several months we have been saying that what is happening in the streets is also the result of the policies of the current government. This is not victory but a step to victory,” said Klitschko, leader of the UDAR (Punch) party.

The president stopped short of proposing amnesty for dozens of arrested protesters until demonstrators stopped occupying buildings and ended their protests, a major sticking point for Tuesday’s talks.

 

 

 

 

 

Source : Al jazeera

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