Ukraine tensions high after amnesty laws' adoption

2014-01-30 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Tensions remain high in Ukraine's capital Kyiv, after parliament approved an amnesty for anti-government protesters, following deadly violence in which as many as five people died. Opposition parties abstained from voting because the legislation is linked to conditions, while the European Union's top envoy and neighbouring countries expressed concern about the situation.

Allies of President Viktor Yanukovich used their majority in Parliament to vote for a bill which demands that detained activists can only be released if all buildings are cleared of anti-government protesters.

Additionally, barricades in Kyiv and throughout the country have to be dismantled.

It is understood that a time limit of fifteen days has been set for the conditions to be met, following an intense debate.

However the opposition says detained demonstrators are now held as hostages. Boxer turned-protest leader Vitaly Klitschko told the crowds gathered in Kyiv's Independence Square that the fight would go on.

REDUCING TENSIONS

"Instead of reducing the degree (of tension) in society, (it will do) the opposite, (the) temperature will be rising," Interfax news agency quoted him saying.

Protesters have made clear they will not go home unless President Yanukovych stands down, calls for early elections, and signs a long-awaited association agreement with the European Union.

On Wednesday, European Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton tried to mediate in Kyiv, meeting the president and opposition groups, after deadly violence between anti-government protesters and riot police.

"I have to say I've been very shocked by the reports that many have given me at the situation. And of course one of the most important aspects that we need to address is the prevention of violence and intimidation," she said.

"I am very worried about people who appeared to be missing. There is much talk when you discuss this with many people about the concept of people [almost] being taken hostage. Wherever it comes from violence must stop it is of enormous importance," Ashton added.

NEIGHBORS CONCERNED

Neighbouring countries have also expressed concern about the situation.

Late Wednesday, prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, met in Hungary's capital Budapest for an emergency meeting on Ukraine.

The leaders of the countries, known as Visegrad Four, said that as Ukraine’s neighbours they were "convinced that the use of force cannot contribute to the resolution of political conflicts".

They suggested they are worried that the violence will spread across borders and the nations' Interior ministers will meet soon. “The situation has turned serious, and whatever happens in Ukraine it happens along our borders," said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report: