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Ukraine's Prosecutor Says Amnesty Going Into Effect

Protesters during their evacuation of Kyiv's city administration building on February 16.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General's Office says a conditional amnesty law that exempts detained protesters from criminal charges will be implemented on February 17.

The office of Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka announced late on February 16 that the Interior Ministry had confirmed protesters have met all the conditions necessary to bring the amnesty law into effect.

Those conditions included the vacating of government buildings seized by protesters and the removal of barricades erected by demonstrators on Hrushevskyy Street in central Kyiv.

Protesters left Kyiv's city administration building on the morning of February 16 after opposition leaders said authorities had freed all jailed protesters from pretrial detention during the preceding days.

Hundreds of demonstrators had occupied Kyiv's city administration building since December 1, making it the symbolic headquarters of their protest movement against President Viktor Yanukovych's government.

At a nearby protest rally on that began just hours after the last protesters left the city administration building, Ukrainian opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok said the demonstrators would not wait beyond February 17 for Prosecutor-General Pshonka to sign the necessary documents that make the promised amnesty a reality:

"We are waiting now for the prosecutor-general's order and we expect him to comply with their set of conditions as stated in the amnesty law," Tyahnybok said.

"If he doesn't issue such an order, we have the right to retake all these buildings under people's control -- and not only these buildings. The authorities have to understand that."

In a statement issued from Brussels, European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton welcomed the protesters' moves.

She also praised what she described as the release by authorities of "nearly all" antigovernment demonstrators from pretrial detention.

Ashton called on the Ukrainian authorities "to close now all pending court cases, including all house arrests" against opposition activists and demonstrators to help push forward Ukraine’s political dialogue in parliament during the coming week.

The protests against Yanukovych's government began in November after the Ukrainian president rejected an agreement on closer ties with the EU and, instead, took steps to orient the country more toward Russia.

With reporting by AFP