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Ukrainian President Signs Amnesty, Repeals Antiprotest Laws


Ukrainian antigovernment protesters stand at the entrance of the Agricultural Ministry building in Kyiv which they occupied late last week.
Ukrainian antigovernment protesters stand at the entrance of the Agricultural Ministry building in Kyiv which they occupied late last week.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has signed a law that offers a conditional amnesty to antigovernment protesters detained in the recent mass unrest, as well as legislation that repeals antiprotest legislation, according to the presidential website.

Yanukovych signed the set of laws into force even though he is officially on sick leave, suffering from an acute respiratory ailment.

The repeal of the antiprotest laws has been welcomed by the opposition, but they have rejected the amnesty because it is conditional on occupied buildings being cleared of activists.

The Ukrainian army on January 31 called on Yanukovych to take "urgent steps" to stabilize the country.

'Crucified' Activist

Meanwhile, an opposition activist who says he was abducted and tortured has been put on the Interior Ministry's wanted list for involvement in "mass riots."

Police and prosecutors visited the hospital where Dmytro Bulatov is recovering. Supporters were also gathering at the clinic, fearing he may be arrested.

Bulatov, who was reported missing a week ago, reappeared late on January 30, badly beaten and with his ear lacerated. It's not clear who was responsible for his abduction.

"I was crucified. My hands were pierced. They cut my ear. They cut my face," Bulatov told reporters. "There is no spot on my body that is not injured. You can see yourself. But I am alive, thank God."

Bulatov's alleged abduction and torture has drawn international condemnation.

European Union foreign police chief Catherine Ashton said she was "appalled," and she warned Ukrainian authorities that targeting activists "must immediately be stopped."

Amnesty International called it a "barbaric act" that must immediately be investigated.

The United Nations human rights office and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine have called for the thorough investigation of deaths, kidnappings, and torture that have occurred during the political crisis, and for the punishment of those responsible.

Bulatov's disappearance came after the abductions of two other opposition activists, one of whom was found dead in a forest near Kyiv with signs of torture.

Seeking 'Urgent Measures'

On January 30, Yanukovych said authorities had fulfilled all their obligations to resolve the crisis and accused the opposition of continuing to increase tensions.

Earlier this week, he accepted the resignation of the government.

The opposition and antigovernment protesters have dismissed all of the moves as insufficient and want Yanukovych to step down.

According to the statement from the Defense Ministry's press service on January 31, Ukrainian military and Defense Ministry officials met and called on Yanukovych, as commander in chief, "to take urgent measures to stabilize the situation in the country and achieve accord in society within the current legislation."

RELATED: Abducted Kyiv Activist 'Crucified,' Tortured

The ministry also said the seizure of state buildings by antigovernment protesters is unacceptable.

The statement said any further escalation of the conflict poses a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity.

Kerry Backs Opposition

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has sided with Ukraine’s opposition, saying the concessions offered by Yanukovych are not enough to resolve Ukraine’s crisis.

Kerry made his remarks on January 31 in Berlin, where he met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Kerry said Ukraine’s antigovernment opposition continues to have Washington’s full support.

But he said that if Yanukovych does offer a "genuine" opportunity for cooperation, the opposition should accept it in the interest of avoiding further violence.

Kerry said the concessions offered by Yanukovych so far -- including extending top cabinet jobs to opposition figures -- are insufficient.

Kerry also warned against "outside powers" getting involved and said he would speak to Russian officials about the crisis.

Kerry is expected to meet with Ukrainian opposition leaders at this weekend’s Munich Security Conference.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, AP and AFP
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