10:33 pm - Friday November 6, 2015

Ukraine crisis: MPs to vote on scrapping anti-protest law

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Ukraine’s parliament is expected to vote on plans to scrap a new anti-protest law in a special session called over the ongoing unrest in the country.

President Viktor Yanukovych has agreed to repeal the legislation, but it is unclear whether MPs will back him.

Opposition to the law has helped fuel deadly clashes between anti-government protesters and police.

Parliament is due to tackle other opposition demands, such as an amnesty for arrested activists.

Mr Yanukovych offered an amnesty only if protesters cleared barricades and stopped attacking government buildings.

The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Zaporizhya, said riot police were guarding a key government building

The president made the concessions during talks with the three main opposition leaders on Monday.

He met Fatherland leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Udar (Punch) chief Vitali Klitschko, and nationalist leader Oleg Tyahnybok.

Mr Yanukovych repeated an offer to Mr Yatsenyuk to assume the post of prime minister, which Mr Yatsenyuk formally turned down.

“A political decision has been made to abolish the laws adopted on January 16 that caused multiple discussions,” Justice Minister Olena Lukash said in a statement on the presidential website, confirming the government’s offer to abolish the protest laws.

She said that the “liability of the government” would also be discussed in parliament. Her statement came amid reports the government could face a confidence vote.

Correspondents say ministerial changes could follow Tuesday’s emergency session of parliament.

Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions dominates parliament, but the BBC’s David Stern in Kiev says it is still not clear whether deputies will agree to vote to revoke the anti-protest legislation.

In a call to Mr Yanukovych on Monday, US Vice President Joe Biden urged the government to repeal what he called the “anti-democratic” protest law.

The changes included a ban on unauthorised tents in public areas, and criminal responsibility for slandering government officials.

Meanwhile, top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton has brought forward a planned visit to Ukraine by 48 hours and will now arrive on Tuesday for meetings with Mr Yanukovych and opposition leaders.

She said she was “alarmed” by reports on Monday that the government was preparing to introduce a state of emergency. Officials have denied any such plan.

So far there has been no sign of demonstrators leaving the streets and the opposition has called for renewed protests to coincide with the meeting of parliament.

Activists continue to occupy Kiev’s central square and government buildings in a number of Ukrainian cities, saying they will not leave until Mr Yanukovych resigns.

Unrest has spread across Ukraine, even to Mr Yanukovych’s Russian-speaking strongholds in the east.

Four activists have died in incidents connected with the protests in recent days.

The crisis was sparked when Mr Yanukovych pulled out of a planned trade deal with the EU last November in favour of a $15bn (£9bn) bailout from Russia.

Ukraine is expected to feature at talks in Brussels on Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the European Union.

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