Ukrainian President Returns From Sick Leave: Protests Ongoing
Despite the continued political tensions in Ukraine accompanied by heavy protests, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych went on sick leave for a four day period, with his administration releasing a statement to the effect that he has been suffering from respiratory illness and fever. Opposition members suggested that the illness might be a forced ruse concealing a political coup. However, Yanukovych returned from leave Monday, and during his time absent, he signed the amnesty bill that allowed for the pardoning of protestors on the condition that they leave occupied capitol buildings — a move that as yet has not been made, and presently looks unlikely.
Protest groups are still insisting on the departure of the President before they will be satisfied — placing the newly returned politician in a difficult position between civil war and heightened violence against protestors — three of which have been killed so far, as well as three law enforcement officials. Protestors are also demanding the repeal of constitutional amendments passed on January 16 that greatly curtailed important democratic rights, including the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and others. The measures were just part of the lead up that sparked public outcry against the government. “Parliament must pass a new law on protection from persecution and mechanism of immediate return to the Constitution of 2004,” said Vitali Klitschko, leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, in a press release.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, stepped down from his position last month, consequently leading to the eventual removal of his Cabinet of Ministers. Klitschko and other protest leaders insist that free election swill put an end to the conflict, and that an immediate return to the Constitution of 2004 should take place, as well as a new amnesty bill that is necessary, calling the President’s recently signed work a “hostage bill.”
“We remain deeply concerned about reports of human rights violations in Ukraine such as disappearances and killings. We are appalled by recent instances of targeting peaceful protestors in Ukraine. For example, the evidence tat AutoMaidan organizer Dmytro Bulatov suffered prolonged torture during his week’s disappearance is extremely disturbing,” said U.S. Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf Friday, according to the U.S. Department of State press briefing.
“I am appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture and cruel treatment of Bulatov, who was found alive yesterday,” said the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton. She also went on to demand that those detained unlawfully should be released, and those who took part in the “continuous deliberate targeting of organisers and participants of peaceful protests” should be sought and punished.
The President released a statement Monday on the violence taking place in Kiev, saying that the events have been unfortunate, and emphasizing the capture and “vandalism” of state premises. It is necessary “to say ‘no’ to extremism, radicalism, and incitement to hostility in the society based on the political struggle for power,” said President Yanukovych during an international panel meeting.
Over the weekend, the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, met with both the Yanukovych and Klitschko in order to aid in stabilizing conditions in the nation and preventing further bloodshed during the Munich Security Council. Yanukovych brought along a booklet of photos showing the atrocities of government response to peaceful protests.