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Ukrainian Parliament Set To Consider Lifting Lawmakers' Immunity Amid Protests

Opposition protesters secure their protest tent camp set up near the Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv on October 18.
Opposition protesters secure their protest tent camp set up near the Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv on October 18.

Ukraine’s parliament is set to consider changes in electoral law and the immunity of lawmakers from prosecution amid demands from protesters camped in front of the legislature to clamp down on corruption.

Thousands of demonstrators aligned with opposition parties have gathered outside the Verkhovna Rada in recent days and plan to hold another major rally on October 19 to ratchet up pressure on President Petro Poroshenko to enact anticorruption reforms or step down.

Parliament's agenda for October 19 includes a vote on health-care reforms before the question of lawmakers' immunity is considered in the afternoon, followed by changes to the electoral law.

Despite calls from both sides for peaceful protests, sporadic clashes have broken out between police and the protesters, who have set up tents outside parliament. At least 10 people were arrested on October 18 as police used tear gas against the crowd, according to Ukrainian media reports.

The protest, which began on October 17, was spurred by disappointment in Poroshenko and his pro-Western government, which came to power after Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych's ouster in February 2014. Poroshenko is accused by critics of failing to root out high-level corruption.

In addition to the abolition of parliamentary immunity from prosecution and an overhaul of Ukraine's electoral law, organizers have called for the creation of anticorruption courts and legislation on impeachment of the president.

With reporting by Christopher Miller in Kyiv
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