Kiev protest group to withdraw if prisoners amnestied

A makeshift camp set in the middle of a street heading to Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of Ukraine's current unrest.   | Photo Credit: Emilio Morenatti

A key faction of Ukrainian anti-government protesters on Monday said they would vacate occupied territory in Kiev in exchange for the release of detained activists.

The offer came two days after a law granting amnesty to rally participants after they vacate administrative buildings was passed by Ukraine’s parliament in an attempt to defuse two months of political chaos and civil unrest.

The amnesty, which has a 15-day deadline, has yet to be implemented.

Protest leaders last week refused to meet the key condition of retreating from government buildings.

Leaders of the so-called Right Sector, however, agreed on Monday with Interior Ministry and Security Service officials to vacate Hrushevsky Street and the Kiev city administration buildings if more than 100 jailed activists are released in the coming days.

During the last two months, the Right Sector has emerged as a powerful force within the broader Ukrainian protest movement, parading the city centre with baseball bats and camouflage uniforms.

If the agreement between the protest group and the government holds, the Right Sector would relinquish two symbolic territories occupied since mass protests began in November.

Other opposition groups, including Vitaly Klitschko’s Udar (Punch) party, have yet to make concessions in relation to the amnesty.

Mr. Klitschko said was to meet on Tuesday with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych for another round of talks, postponed from Monday.

Mr. Klitschko vowed to reiterate demands for early elections and a new constitution that limits presidential powers. He and rival opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk last week refused an offer by Mr. Yanukovych to become prime minister and deputy prime minister, respectively.

The anti-government protests broke out in November after Yanukovych backed out of a planned trade agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

The EU indicated Monday it could offer more aid to Ukraine on the condition that a transitional government pursues reforms.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the bloc was prepared to increase its 150-million-euro annual financial assistance to Kiev if the planned association agreement is implemented.

The notion that the EU would “pay” if Ukraine signed the agreement was misguided, Mr. Barroso said.

Earlier Monday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Brussels and Washington were working on a financial plan for Ukraine if a new Ukrainian government pursues economic and political reform.

Ashton is scheduled to return to Kiev for talks Wednesday with the government and opposition. Victoria Nuland, US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who has already been to Ukraine during the crisis, was slated to make her own visit this week.

State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the US was in “preliminary” discussions with the EU about financial aid.

“The next step is the creation of a new government, and then we will consider what support we would be able to and prepared to provide,” she said.

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned against a race to see who can pay the most, which he warned could further destabilize Ukraine.

“It remains a powder keg, and I hope that neither side sets it off,” he said.

He said the toughest stretch lay ahead with the question of constitutional change in Ukraine. The German government remained ready to take decisive action against the Ukraine leadership, up to and including sanctions, Mr. Steinmeier said.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 6:57:16 PM |

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