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Ukraine scraps anti-protest laws

In simultaneous moves to try resolving Ukraine's political crisis, the prime minister has resigned and parliament has repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police.

They were significant concessions to the protesters who have occupied the Kiev's main square for two months and fought sporadically with police for the last 10 days. Yet key issues remain unresolved in Ukraine's political crisis, including the opposition's repeated demands for president Viktor Yanukovych to resign and a new election to be held.

Peaceful protests against Mr Yanukovych's decision to turn toward Russia for a bailout loan instead of signing a deal with the European Union turned violent after the president pushed through new laws to crack down on protests and raise prison sentences for creating disorder. The laws included prohibiting people from wearing helmets and gas masks, which many protesters had done due to fears that riot police would try to violently disperse their demonstrations.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, an MP who is one of the opposition's top figures, hailed the parliament's move.

"We have repealed all the laws against which the whole country rose up," he said.

The parliament vote came hours after prime minister Mykola Azarov - one of the government figures most disliked by opposition supporters - submitted his resignation.

The resignation must be accepted by the president, but that is likely to be only a formality. Mr Yanukovych over the weekend had offered the premiership to Mr Yatsenyuk, but the opposition leader refused the post.

The opposition also wants amnesty for scores of people arrested in the protests. But Mr Yanukovych said that would be possible only if demonstrators agree to clear the streets and vacate the buildings they now occupy. That condition could be unacceptable to a large segment of the demonstrators.

The parliament is to vote later on the amnesty measure for protesters.

-AP

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