Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation

Updated: 2014-02-17 11:17


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Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation

An anti-government protester watches as riot police leave the site of recent clashes in Kiev February 16, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]


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Demonstrators had swept into the main municipal building shortly after Yanukovich decided to ditch the EU trade pact.

Switzerland, now chair of the OSCE human rights watchdog, sent an envoy to Kiev to monitor the City Hall evacuation.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she expected the authorities now to close all pending court cases, including house arrests, "so as to facilitate the political dialogue in parliament this week".

Masked men in military fatigues and the demonstrators they had protected against riot police since mid-December filed out of Kiev's city hall but threatened to return if authorities did not carry out the amnesty promise.

Opposition deputies said protesters had similarly pulled out of municipal buildings in several areas of western Ukraine, a hotbed of opposition to Yanukovich, and in one part of the southeast where the president has retained more support.

Andriy, 45, commander of about 100 men in black balaclavas leaving City Hall, said they were doing so on the understanding that charges against detained activists would be dropped.

A pivotal decision in coming days will be who Yanukovich names as his candidate for prime minister to replace the Russian-born Mykola Azarov, whom he sacked on January 28 in an unsuccessful attempt to appease the protesters.

He has until the end of the month to find one, although parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybak was quoted by Interfax as saying he thought Yanukovich might present his candidate to parliament on Tuesday.

With the hryvnia currency under pressure, he has to find a new steward of the economy quickly.

His choice could encourage a quicker disbursement of Russia's bailout package. But if he resists calls for constitutional change and names a hardliner, the streets could return to uproar.

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