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Ukraine president will scrap anti-protest law

— Ukraine’s beleaguered president on Monday agreed to scrap harsh anti-protest laws that set off a wave of clashes between protesters and police over the past week.

In a statement on the presidential Web site, Justice Minister Elena Lukash said that in a meeting with top opposition figures and President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday night, “a political decision was made on scrapping the laws of Jan. 16, which aroused much discussion.”

Yanukovych pushed those laws through parliament. Three days later clashes with police broke out, a sharp escalation of tensions after weeks of mostly peaceful protests.

Eliminating the laws, which is likely to be done in a special parliament session Tuesday, would be a substantial concession to the opposition. But it does not meet all their demands, which include Yanukovych’s resignation.

One of the opposition figures, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, turned down the prime minister’s job, which Yanukovych offered him on Saturday.

At that time, he said protests would continue. In the Monday meeting, Yanukovych said a proposed amnesty for arrested protesters would not be offered unless demonstrators stopped occupying buildings and ended their round-the-clock protests and tent camp on Kiev’s central square.

Protesters have been afraid that authorities were preparing to end the spreading demonstrations by force, but the foreign ministry said earlier that the government has no immediate plans to declare a state of emergency.

Three protesters died in the clashes last week, two of whom were shot by hunting rifles, which police insist they do not use. With protesters now willing to risk injury, a state of emergency would be likely to set off substantial fighting on the streets of the capital.

“Today, such a measure is not on the table,” Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara told journalists.

The protesters still occupy three sizable buildings in downtown Kiev, including City Hall. One of the buildings was seized in a spectacular assault early Sunday, when hundreds of protesters threw rocks and firebombs into the building where about 200 police were sheltering. The crowd eventually formed a corridor through which the police left.

— Associated Press


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