Ukraine president will scrap anti-protest law

Associated Press Published:

KIEV, Ukraine -- 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 website, 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."

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, including Yanukovych's resignation.

It's not clear if constitutional changes will be on the agenda for Tuesday's parliamentary session, but granting more power to the prime minister could allow Yanukovych to portray himself as offering genuine compromise.

The fears of a state of emergency come after other official statements suggesting the government is considering forceful moves against the protesters.

Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko on Saturday warned that demonstrators occupying buildings would be considered extremists and that force would be used against them if necessary.

The protests began in late November when Yanukovych shelved a long-awaited agreement to deepen ties with the 28-nation European Union and sought a bailout loan from Russia. Demonstrations grew after police violently dispersed two gatherings. Demonstrators then set up a large tent camp on Kiev's main square.

After Yanukovych approved the new anti-protest laws, demonstrations spread into other parts of the country, including to some cities in the Russian-speaking east, the base of Yanukovych's support.

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