Ukraine’s parliament is considering on Wednesday an amnesty for scores of people arrested during the past two months of recent political protests in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovych has said amnesty is only possible if the protesters vacate the government buildings they are occupying and remove their barricades from the streets. However, that idea is likely to face opposition from many of the anti-government activists.
On Tuesday, Yanukovych accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov — a key demand of the protesters, who have occupied central Kyiv for weeks.
In announcing the resignation, the president’s website said that under Ukrainian law, the rest of the Cabinet must resign as well. The website indicated the other ministers had been instructed to remain at their posts until a new Cabinet is in place. Additionally, Yanukovych signed legislation repealing anti-protest measures enacted earlier this month to crush the protests.
Despite the concessions, opposition leaders are looking for more, including the amnesties for protesters and new presidential elections. Opposition leader and former world boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko called Tuesday’s developments “not a victory, but a step toward victory.”
In Washington, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden welcomed Tuesday’s concessions and voiced support for amnesty measures to ease the two-month crisis.
Protesters on Monday left the Justice Ministry building that they had occupied for days, but promised to return if no progress is made on ending the standoff.
Opposition supporters took to the streets in late November when Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia, including a $15 billion Russian bailout.
In Brussels on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told European Union leaders that Moscow will keep its loan promise to cash-poor Ukraine and provide steep natural gas discounts — even if the opposition comes to power.
However, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who also was attending the Brussels summit, said Moscow probably would re-examine its pledges if a new Kyiv government were to announce “different priorities.”