Tension high in Kyiv as amnesty deadline expires

By bne IntelliNews February 17, 2014

bne -

After two weeks of relative calm, tension in Kyiv is high again as a 15 day deadline on the government's offered amnesty expires. On the surface, the prospects for compromise seem good, with both sides in the conflict having made gestures designed to deescalate the mood. However, the threat of renewed violence remains.

The amnesty law was part of a package passed by the government two weeks ago, designed to bring an end to the street fighting that has plagued the Ukrainian capital this year. The protests were kicked off in November by President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a pact with the EU, and subsequent deal with Russia, developed into street battles in late December and early January.

Under the deal, all protestors that comply with the terms in the law - they must leave occupied government buildings and the central Independence Square, or Maidan - will be excused for any illegal acts - although only those committed between December 27 and February 2 - according to a statement on the general prosecutor's website.

The statement did not specify how many protesters would be pardoned, although the chief prosecutor has suggested 259 demonstrators would receive clemency under the agreement, Ria Novosti reports.


However, it is exactly those riders on the bill that leave open the prospects of more clashes. The opposition leaders rejected the amnesty out of hand when it was passed on January 29, calling instead for a blanket amnesty with no conditions attached. However, at the last minute, the protestors moved to comply with some, but not all, of the government's demands.

The opposition left occupied government buildings over the weekend. A key flash point was removed from the game on February 16, when protestors left City Hall in central Kyiv, which they have been occupying and using as a headquarters for the last two months. However, the opposition has threatened to take it back again if the government doesn't hold up its side of the bargain.

Volodymyr Makeyenko, head of the Kyiv city state administration, said the talks with the opposition were constructive and a compromise was reached that demonstrators would vacate the building to allow city authorities to resume their work. "This is the first step towards settling the political crisis and signals that the Ukrainian opposition seeks a peaceful agreement," he insisted, according to Ria Novosti. He also thanked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for acting as a mediator at talks.

Protestors have also withdrawn from the barricades in Hrushevshoho Street. The road leading to the parliament has been the scene of some of the worst fighting. For its part the government released 243 protesters from jail as part of the amnesty deal. Only one protestor is reported to remain under arrest.

War or peace?

However, the stand off is anything but easy. The authorities have sent bulldozers into the centre of Kyiv to start removing barricades. Meanwhile, a sprawling tent city remains on Maidan, and some sections of the crowd have denounced the decision to end the occupations of buildings. Some protestors have been reinforcing the barricades, replacing the bags of melting snow with sand.

Taking a cynical view, the ruling Regions party included the terms on the amnesty bill precisely because it sensed it could antagonize splits in the opposition. At the same time, the offer of an amnesty gives the government the excuse that it tried to compromise, even if the intention from the start was to send in police and army to clear the square by force.

According to reports, some 50 ruling Party of Regions deputies were willing to vote through an unconditional amnesty bill back in January. However, Yanukovych personally arrived at the Rada building on the eve of the vote and bullied them into the caveats.

Despite the gestures of peace-making, Yanukovych has not been acting like someone who is preparing for peace. He has used the last two weeks of relative calm to increase his control over the government and regions with a string of sackings and new appointments appointing more officials personally loyal to him in key posts in the security services and regional administrations.

Even if the government's intentions are honest, tension will remain high over the possibility. The next few days will be crucial in deciding how the next phase of the protests play out.

Related Articles

Drum rolls in the great disappearing act of Russia's banks

Jason Corcoran in Moscow - Russian banks are disappearing at the fastest rate ever as the country's deepening recession makes it easier for the central bank to expose money laundering, dodgy lending ... more

Kremlin: No evidence in Olympic doping allegations against Russia

bne IntelliNews - The Kremlin supported by national sports authorities has brushed aside "groundless" allegations of a mass doping scam involving Russian athletes after the World Anti-Doping Agency ... more

PROFILE: Day of reckoning comes for eccentric owner of Russian bank Uralsib

Jason Corcoran in Moscow - Revelations and mysticism may have been the stock-in-trade of Nikolai Tsvetkov’s management style, but ultimately they didn’t help him to hold on to his ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at sales@intellinews.com

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at sales@intellinews.com

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.