Ukraine President Signs Amnesty but Anger Remains, Currency Slumps
Kiev – Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovich on Friday signed into law an amnesty for demonstrators detained during mass unrest and repealed anti-protest legislation, in a fresh bid to take the heat out of the political crisis. But the move by Yanukovich, which demonstrated he remains politically active despite going on sick leave on Thursday, was not likely to be enough to end the sometimes violent anti-government protests on the streets of Kiev and other cities.
And TV coverage of a prominent opposition activist showing marks of torture inflicted by mystery kidnappers – along with reports police tried to arrest the man in hospital – fuelled anger that has become so explosive that the army made a rare statement, calling for urgent moves to ease the tension.
Many protesters rejected Yanukovich’s amnesty outright, because it is conditional on occupied buildings being cleared of activists, and a radical Ukrainian nationalist group behind much of the violence pressed new tough demands on Friday.
The 63-year-old leader, who looks increasingly isolated in a tug-of-war between the West and Ukraine’s former Soviet overlord Russia, suddenly withdrew from view on Thursday, complaining of a high temperature and acute respiratory ailment. He was not seen in public on Friday.
Opposition leaders, citing fears for demonstrators’ health from Arctic temperatures, urged their supporters not to take to the streets in large numbers for weekly rallies on Sunday. But with some television channels replaying repeated video of opposition activist DmytroBulatov, abducted a week ago, displaying wounds inflicted by his assailants, fury at the government shows no sign of letting up.
“There’s no point in signing this amnesty law,” said Olena, working at an improvised clinic at Kiev’s occupied city hall. “No one will leave here until this government is gone.” (Reuters)