Ukraine lawmakers on Thursday passed legislation punishing by fines or arrest the blockading of public buildings, protesters wearing masks or helmets, the dissemination of Internet slander, and providing facilities or equipment for unauthorized meetings. Critics allege [Al Jazeera report] the laws were passed to suppress protests against President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, JURIST news archive]. The legislation passage was followed by protests in Kiev, boosting opposition fears of an imminent police crackdown. The laws, backed by 235 out of 450 lawmakers, also provide [AFP report] a simplified a procedure to prosecute lawmakers.
Protests began [JURIST report] in late November after Yanukovych's decision to abandon a proposed trade pact with the EU. Later that month, Yanukovich offered amnesty to those detained while participating in the country's recent anti-government protests. The proposal was made during a roundtable discussion with opposition leaders. In November Ukraine's imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] announced [JURIST report] that she would go on a hunger strike to show her support for the demonstrators who have been protesting the decision to abandon the EU trade pact. The pact, signed into law [JURIST report] in September, would have improved prison conditions and taken one step closer to integration with the EU by allowing the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, a step by the Ukrainian government toward economic and political integration with the EU.