Ukraine opposition calls for constitution change

[JURIST] Leaders of Ukraine's anti-government protests on Monday pressed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich [official website; JURIST news archive] for further concessions, including a return to an earlier constitution that would limit presidential powers and a revival of the EU fair trade agreement (FTA) [existing EU FTAs]. Arseny Yatsenyuk [Open Ukraine profile], the parliamentary leader of the opposition party Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) told a meeting [Reuters report] of parliament's agenda-setting committee that his coalition would be ready to vote on a constitutional bill as soon as Tuesday. Justice Minister Olena Lukash stated [AP report] last week that officials were preparing methods of constitutional change but did not elaborate on what those methods were. The protesters have also demanded Yanukovych's resignation and early elections, though the president has shown no signs of accepting these conditions. The Russian foreign ministry denounced [BBC report] the actions of the protesters, who want closer ties to the EU, and urged opposition leaders to increase negotiations with the government. Yanukovych moved away from EU negotiations for fear that the country would suffer from losing trade with Russia, who wants Ukraine to be a part of a Moscow-led trade alliance.

The protests in Ukraine's capital have continued for more than two months, prompting reactions from both international and local government officials. In January the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for an investigation [JURIST report] into torture allegations against Ukraine following widespread arrests of protesters. The statement came the day after Yanukovich offered amnesty to protesters [JURIST report] who were arrested and agree to meet certain conditions. The amnesty bill was passed 232-11 and gave protesters 15 days to comply, but has been rejected by the opposition. Protests began in November after the Ukrainian government abandoned [JURIST report] a proposed trade pact [EU backgrounder] with the EU. Tensions were further exacerbated when Yanukovych signed [JURIST report] a series of laws [materials] earlier that month that limited the right to protest government actions. Also in January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] and the OHCHR issued statements [JURIST report] urging Ukrainian protesters to use restraint and calling on both the government and protesters to work towards constructive dialogue to diffuse the rising tension and violence that has gripped the nation. Earlier in January, in response to the escalating civil unrest in the country, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned from office [JURIST report] as the parliament repealed the harsh anti-protest laws passed earlier this month.

 

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