WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The Ukrainian parliament convened Tuesday for a special session to discuss the political crisis, with lawmakers overwhelmingly voting to repeal nine pieces of anti-democratic legislation that were passed January 16.
The anti-protest laws inflamed demonstrators and led to violent and deadly confrontations with police. 361 out of 412 lawmakers voted to repeal the January 16 legislation. The legislation was widely viewed by the opposition and Western governments as overly restrictive and undemocratic. Some of the laws restricted public assembly, prohibited blocking government buildings, and considered NGOs to be acting as foreign agents.
Following nearly a week of violent clashes between protesters and police, President Viktor Yanukovych attempted to defuse the political crisis by announcing the January 28 special parliamentary session and the intention for lawmakers to amend the unpopular January 16 legislation. Protesters, fearing the special session would introduce legislation declaring a state of emergency that would further empower the president, had referred to Tuesday as "judgement day."
In addition to repealing anti-protest laws, parliament is also considering legislation that will grant amnesty to more than 200 people arrested since "Euro Maidan" rallies began in November.
Hours before Tuesday special parliamentary vote, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov announced his resignation. Azarov characterized the political crisis as "a threat to the entire Ukrainian society and every citizen." A government statement said his resignation will "create more opportunities for social and political compromise for a peaceful settlement of the conflict."
On Saturday, the president offered Azarov's position as well as the deputy prime minister position to opposition leaders. Opposition leaders flatly rejected the offer, with Arseniy Yatsenyuk responding "The people decide our leaders, not you."
Demonstrations began in November 2013 following President Yanukovych's announcement that Ukraine would not join the EU and have continued for months, despite the freezing temperatures and threat of violence. Protesters at "Euro Maidan" rallies, led by the government opposition parties, have voiced their opposition to Ukraine's economic ties to Russia and have demanded the removal of the president.
[Interfax Ukraine News Agency] [CNN]