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Ukrainian crisis: February 18 (live updates)

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Ukrainian crisis: February 18 (live updates)
'Berkut' riot police and 'titushki' vs Euromaidan protesters in Kyiv
Фото: Макс Левин

Read previous news on the topic:

Ukrainian crisis: February 14

Ukrainian crisis: February 17

On Jan. 16 the Verkhovna Rada adopted more than a dozen of controversial amendments to a law 'On the Judicial System and Status of Judges' and the procedural laws regarding additional measures to protect the safety of citizens. Most opposition politicians, international organizations and European countries consider these laws a violation of basic constitutional rights of 45 million citizens of Ukraine.

On Jan. 19, clashes broke out between Euromaidan protesters and police on Hrushevskoho Street in the centre of Kyiv, after radical protesters decided to break through the police cordon in the direction of the Government House and the Verkhovna Rada. At least six people were killed during two weeks of unprecedented politically-linked violence in Kyiv.

Now opposition leaders - Arseniy Yatsenyuk ('Batkivshchyna'), Vitali Klitschko ('UDAR') and Oleg Tyagnibok ('Svoboda') - are trying to put an end to the political crisis in Ukraine.

On Jan. 24 Euromaidan supporters started seizing buildings of regional state administration all over Ukraine. Some attempts were successful.

On Jan. 25 President Viktor Yanukovich offered the opposition several top government posts. Thus, Yanukovich offered Arseny Yatseniyuk the post of prime minister to replace Nykolai Azarov, whose government would be expected to resign. Vitali Klitschko, a former international boxing champion, would be appointed deputy prime minister responsible for humanitarian issues. But opposition leaders, supported by thousands of protesters massing in Kyiv's city centre, continued to press for further concessions, including early elections and the repeal of an anti-protest law.

On Jan. 28 Ukrainian Prime Minister Nykolai Azarov resigned, and a series of sweeping anti-protest laws, adopted hastily in response to increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police, were abolished by parliament.

On Jan. 29 the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, approved a law that would grant an amnesty to arrested protesters, but depended on the demonstrators vacating all occupied government buildings. After 12 hours of negotiations the amnesty was agreed by 232 votes from the Regions Party members and the Communist Party amid applause from the 'regionals' and angry shouts 'Shame!' from the opposition.

Now the EU is considering sanctions against Ukraine. In the mean time, former Ukrainian Interior Minister and head of the public organization 'Ukrainian Third Republic' Yuriy Lutsenko said there is no point in negotiating between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich, and called on the Ukrainians to join the ranks of Euromaidan self-defence units.

Individual MP Pyotr Poroshenko, in his turn, announced the establishment of an international commission to investigate crimes of the Ukrainian authorities against Euromaidan protesters.

The opposition, buoyed by Western expressions of support, pressed on Feb. 4, in parliament for a return to a previous constitution of 2004, which would mean Yanukovich losing some of the key powers he has accumulated since being elected in 2010. These include appointing the prime minister and entire government as well as regional governors. The opposition also wants an unconditional amnesty for protesters detained in the unrest to be broadened into an unconditional pardon for all those being held by police.

So far the authorities and the opposition haven't managed to reach a compromise on a return to the constitution of 2004. Some activists still remain in custody, and Euromaidan protesters still occupy government building in Kyiv.

On Feb. 16 the Interior Ministry confirmed protesters have met all the conditions necessary to bring the amnesty law into effect. A conditional amnesty law that exempts detained protesters from criminal charges has been implemented on Feb. 17.

00:12. Vinnitsa City Court freed from criminal responsibility 19-year-old student Tsebrika Victor, who was accused of involvement in the riots, capturing the building of Vinnytsia Regional State Administration and resisting police officers. During the investigation the young man was expelled from technical training college.

00:28. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she didn't consider the imposition of sanctions against Ukrainian officials as a mandatory measure for resolving the crisis in Ukraine. She also called amnesty of Euromaidan activists a positive step.

00:38. 'Batkivschyna' opposition faction leader Arseniy Yatseniuk and leader of the 'UDAR' party Vitali Klitschko before their departure from Berlin talked to AutoMaidan leader Dmitry Bulatov, who had to run to Germany because of the situation in Ukraine. In the end of January he was kidnapped and tortured by unidentified men (picture).

According to the press service of 'Batkivschyna', Bulatov thanked the opposition leaders for care.

00:58. One of Euromaidan activists said he was stabbed in the lung, when he moved to reconnoiter the situation behind barricades on the side of security forces on Hrushevskoho Street, stated AutoMaidan activist Dmitry Karp.

It remains unknown, who attacked the activist, who know remains in hospital.

08:08. Euromaidan activists and opposition supporters are gathering in the centre of Kyiv to participate in so called 'peace offensive' on the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, building to demand a return to the constitution of 2004 in order to end the political and economical crisis in the country.

08:36. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in an article for the 'Kommersant. Ukraine' said that President Viktor Yanukovich's actions led to the deepest political crisis in Ukraine since its independence. She also noted that it was important to focus on solving urgent problems.

08:53. Catherine Ashton says believes that the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union is not a threat to Russia's interests.

08:54. Participants of the 'peace offensive on the Verkhovna Rada' have been met by two water cannons and two APCs on Hrushevskoho Street.

09:30. The opposition is trying to persuade Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Vladimir Rybak to register changes to the Constitution, so far to no avail, wrote MP Lesia Orobets on her Facebook page.

09:38. The Verkhovna Rada's building has been surrounded by police buses and barbed wire (pictures). 

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