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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovich has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his entire Cabinet, as anti-government protests spread across the country.
The announcement came after parliament voted to abolish controversial anti-protest laws, whose passage sparked riots and related violence in which at least five people were killed.
There was a rare moment of unity when Ukrainian legislators of the opposition and the ruling Party of Regions applauded after voting 362 to 2 to repeal the anti-protest laws.
The legislation, restricting freedom of protest and speech with threats of fines and even prison terms, had become known as the dictatorship laws, and sparked riots.
Tuesday’s vote came after Prime Minister Azarov said he stepped down because “of the threat to the economy” caused by two months of unrest.
Later in the day, President Viktor Yanukovich announced he had accepted the resignation of the prime minister and his entire Cabinet.
Yet reactions were mixed in the capital Kyiv, where demonstrators have been braving freezing temperatures, warming themselves at open fires near barricades.
“I think that the people want to change all those in power,” a demonstrator said. “Only than protesters will leave and the barricades will me removed,” he cautioned.
So far key protest demands have not been met, including the resignation of president Yanukovich himself.
Protests began in November after Yanukovich refused to sign the European Union Association Agreement.
Instead, he opted for closer ties with Russia, in exchange for a $15 billion bailout, and a reduction of prices for Russian natural gas exports.
Yet the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, whose priests are praying with demonstrators, views the protests also as an expression of public frustration over deep rooted corruption and intimidation, in this former Soviet republic.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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