July 24, 2014
Yanukovich, Ukraine opposition agree to scrap anti-protest laws
Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovich, in talks with opposition leaders, agreed to the repeal of some anti-protest laws and to discuss the fate of the present government at a crunch session of parliament, called to end two months of unrest against his rule.
But former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, now a leader of the opposition, refused his offer of the prime minister's job, setting the scene for a tough political battle in parliament over opposition demands for concessions, including an amnesty for detained protesters.
There was no mention of any declaration of a state of emergency - something that Yanukovich's cabinet ministers threatened to call for on Monday to re-establish control over the security situation in the country, where protesters are seizing public buildings.
Talk of a state of emergency being declared in the former Soviet republic of 46 million made the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton hastily move up a visit to Kiev.
After a four-hour meeting, Yanukovich's justice minister, who was present at the talks, said they agreed to scrap parts of an anti-protest law 10 days ago that triggered violent protests from radical activists.
The minister, Olena Lukash, was quoted on the presidential website as saying the question of the government's "responsibility" would be discussed in parliament tomorrow, suggesting there could be a vote of no-confidence in Mykola Azarov's government as a concession to the opposition.
But she said Yatsenyuk, one of a "troika" of opposition leaders, had formally refused to accept the prime minister's post offered to him by Yanukovich over the weekend.
Yanukovich triggered the upheaval in the sprawling country in November when he abruptly abandoned plans to sign association and free trade deals with the European Union. He opted instead to tighten economic ties with former Soviet master Russia, angering millions who dream of a European future.