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Ukraine offers to free protesters

An activist guards a barricade in Independence Square in Kiev (AP)
An activist guards a barricade in Independence Square in Kiev (AP)
A protester mans a barricade in Independence Square in Kiev (AP)

Ukraine's president has proposed an amnesty for all protesters facing criminal charges in the country's wave of massive anti-government demonstrations.

President Viktor Yanukovych made the offer at a round-table meeting that included three leaders of the opposition that has orchestrated more than three weeks of anti-government protests, flooding the streets of Kiev with hundreds of thousands of people.

There was no immediate reaction from the opposition figures, who earlier had said they were going to the meeting only to state their demands, including that the government resign and early parliamentary and presidential elections be held.

"There should be an amnesty, in order to give guarantees that the process of confrontation will stop," Mr Yanukovych said.

"I am outraged by the radical actions on both sides ... from the side of provocateurs and from the side of the security forces, which have not always behaved properly," he added.

The proposed amnesty could be a sizeable step toward resolving the conflict that has threatened Mr Yanukovych's leadership. The protests began after Mr Yanukovych on November 21 refused to sign an association deal with the European Union, choosing instead to back closer ties with Russia.

Demonstrators have set up an extensive tent camp in the capital's main square, where protesters gather around the clock. After squads of riot police deployed at the square early on Tuesday, then withdrew hours later as demonstrators stood their ground, protesters' spirits have been high. New barricades have been put up on streets leading to the square.

In another possible sign of progress, the deputy prime minister said that Ukraine wants to soon sign the agreement to deepen economic and political ties with the EU.

The economically troubled nation of 46 million is deeply divided over the EU deal. Many people in eastern Ukraine, the country's rural heartland, are against the protesters in Kiev and want the country to have closer economic ties with Russia.



From Belfast Telegraph