Protesters in Ukraine still aren’t satisfied with President Yanukovych’s amnesty bill approved in an extraordinary session Wednesday. The amnesty bill would provide immunity for all protesters currently detained under the condition that protesters “vacate” controlled government buildings and depart from protest locations in the streets and public squares.
According to reports, the protesters say that the amnesty bill is not enough, and that widespread constitutional reforms need to be taken seriously by the president if they are expected to leave. Such proposals include “rebalancing” power away from the executive branch to the legislative branch.
The tension only amplified after a protester, Dmytro Bulatov, went missing last week while participating in anti-government protests, raising questions about the protection of human rights by Ukraine authorities.
Bulatov, who organized various demonstrations like the AutoMaidan protest which gathered a convoy of motorists to drive through the streets of Ukraine, said he was kidnapped, “crucified and tortured” by his captors. Bulatov said he was left in a forest where he ran to safety a few hours later. A video of Bulatov’s bloodied head shows he had his ear cut off by the assailants.
In a move characteristic of an authoritarian regime, observers are saying that Bulatov’s treatment is an “act of intimidation” meant to scare off other protesters from mobilizing. International officials like European Commissioner for EU Enlargement Stefan Fule said that the incident was “deplorable” and such activities “must stop.” According to reports, two other activists have disappeared during anti-government marches.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military has called for President Yanukovych to put an end to the political instability, warning the president that if the demonstrations continue, the upheaval may be too much to handle for authorities.
The pressure of President Yanukovych from inside Ukraine and abroad had brought him to the negotiating table, resulting in the amnesty bill as well as the annulment of anti-protest laws. Observers are saying that while Yanukovych is making the right moves, they may come too little too late, as the protesters have become insatiable about having all of their demands met.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said a week ago that Ukraine was on the verge of “catastrophe,” something which Ukraine authorities are just coming to grips with now.
The protests which have escalated into violence seem to have calmed down over the past day or two, with no serious injuries or deaths being reported. Observers say that the government’s extraordinary parliament sessions as well as some of the concessions President Yanukovych has made has helped ease some of the tensions within the crowd. Observers say though that the violence may resume if the government doesn’t do more to address the crowd’s grievances.
The protests that started over the president’s failure to sign a trade agreement with the European Union back in November has evolved, absorbing a number of grievances under its banner, such as abuses of power, corruption and anti-protest laws passed in the wake of the demonstrations.
As of now, protesters in Ukraine say they are not satisfied with the amnesty bill and measures passed so far, and that President Yanukovych must step down to bring about the constitutional reforms they desire.
by John Amaruso