Ukrainian President: Sudden Illness Sparks Rumors

Protests in Ukraine continue as opposition forces have refused to accept the terms of amnesty offered by the government, which would only become solidified once protestors vacated captured government buildings — something they are refusing to do, holding out for elections and the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych. The political unrest stems from measures passed by the Ukrainian Rada on January 16, which limited the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian, drawing international criticism for the anti-democratic changes. Since then, the protests have escalated into violence with three dying so far, and arrests, torture, and concerns over missing persons as hot topics.

The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, who took a harsh position on protestors and violence surrounding the unrest by blaming citizens for the fallout, resigned recently. He stepped down from office, with the Vice Prime Minister replacing him as acting head. His removal — and the eventual subsequent removal of his Cabinet — was not enough for many protestors, including head of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance (or, UDAR) Vitali Klitschko. He said that the next logical step would be for the President to step down and for elections to begin.

Now, Ukrainian Parliament has voted on repealing the anti-protest laws that were part of those restrictive items to spark off the protests. The bill still awaits the signature of the President, but it may have to wait for a while, as the president was announced to be on sick leave Thursday. “The President of Ukraine is on sick leave due to acute respiratory disease accompanied by fever,” said the Deputy Head of the State Affairs Department on Medical Issues, Oleksandr Orda.

The announcement of his illness has sparked rumors that his absence and supposed illness is a cover for a coup that is trying to take him out of power, according to the Associated Press. His sudden, unexpected absence due to a previously unheard of illness is being compared to the coup attempt against Soviet head Mikhael Gorbachev in 1991. “I don’t remember official statements on Viktor Yanukovych’s colds. But I remember well, when on August 10, 1991, the vice president of the USSR, Gennady Yanayev, announced the serious illness of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev,” wrote a political commentator, Vitaly Portnikov, on Facebook — according to the Associated Press.

Spokesperson for the president, Andriy Lysenko, told the Associated Press that Yanukovych remains in control of Ukriane, and that he cannot give his power over to anyone according to the constitution of Ukraine. UDAR had yet another take on the illness, saying that Yanukovych had, “rather, a political disease,” and that he was simply using the feigned sickness as an excuse to step back from the crisis. “After all, he can use it to avoid signing the abolishment of ‘dictatorial laws,’” said the release.

Meanwhile, the First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Serhiy Arbuzov, joined in discussion with a UN special envoy, Secretary General Robert Serry, on how best to de-escalate and end the situation in Ukraine. “I’m very glad that in such a difficult time for our country our partners visit us and we can discuss the problem to find a solution that would help resolve the situation in the most positive [way] for both sides,” said Acting Prime Minister Arbuzov, according to a government release.

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