Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation

Updated: 2014-02-17 11:17


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Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation

Anti-government protesters are seen as they leave city hall in Kiev February 16, 2014. [Photo/Agencies] 

KIEV - Ukrainian opposition protesters ended a two-month occupation of city hall in Kiev on Sunday and opened a road to limited traffic, meeting an amnesty offer aimed at easing a stand-off over President Viktor Yanukovich's rule.

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The authorities, for their part, withdrew riot police from a flashpoint district of the capital, near the Dynamo Kiev football stadium, where at least three protesters died in January in violence between ultra-radical activists and police.

Apparently accepting that the protesters had met the authorities half-way, the prosecutor's office said in a statement that the amnesty would come into force from Monday.

Criminal charges would be dropped against those protesters for violations committed between December 27 and February 2, it said - a period that includes a week of clashes in which six people were killed and hundreds of police and protesters injured.

Despite the conciliatory moves, opposition leaders sought to keep up pressure on Yanukovich, telling a rally in Kiev's Independence Square that he must abandon "dictatorial" powers and let them form a government independent of him.

On Tuesday, Yanukovich may present his candidate for prime minister to parliament - a choice that will show whether he is ready to make more concessions to the opposition after 12 weeks of often ugly street confrontation.

Opposition leaders made clear on Sunday they would also push in parliament for constitutional changes to reduce Yanukovich's powers.

The unrest was sparked by Yanukovich in November when he spurned a free trade agreement long in the making with the European Union and opted for a $15 billion package of Russian credits and cheaper gas to shore up Ukraine's ailing economy.

The revolt spiralled into countrywide protests at perceived sleaze and corruption in the Yanukovich administration, and has triggered a geopolitical tussle between East and West.

As Russia beckons with the aid package, the United States and its Western allies have urged Yanukovich to move back towards an IMF-backed deal with Europe.

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