KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — In back-to-back moves aimed at defusing Ukraine's political crisis, the prime minister resigned Tuesday and parliament repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police.
The two developments were significant concessions to the anti-government protesters who have fought sporadically with police for the last 10 days after two months of peaceful around-the-clock demonstrations.
The protests erupted after President Viktor Yanukovych turned toward Russia for a bailout loan instead of signing a deal with the European Union and have since morphed into a general plea for more human rights, less corruption and more democracy in this nation of 45 million.
The departure of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov removes one of the officials most disliked by the opposition forces whose protests have turned parts of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, into a barricaded maze.
However, Azarov's spokesman told the Interfax news agency that another staunch Yanukovych ally, deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, will assume temporary leadership of the Cabinet, a move that is unlikely to please the opposition.
Other key issues remain unresolved in Ukraine's political crisis, including the opposition's repeated demand that Yanukovych resign and a new election be held.
Azarov's resignation came just before the opening of a special parliament session that repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police.
Earlier this month, Yanukovych pushed through the new laws to crack down on protests and increase prison sentences for creating disorder. The laws also prohibited demonstrators from wearing helmets and gas masks as many have done for fear that riot police would try to violently disperse protests.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a lawmaker and one of the opposition's top figures, hailed the parliament's move.
"We have repealed all the laws against which the whole country rose up," he said.
Over the weekend, Yanukovych offered the premiership to Yatsenyuk, but the opposition leader refused the post.
Parliament will consider an amnesty measure Wednesday for scores of arrested protesters. But Yanukovych has said the amnesty is only possible if demonstrators clear the streets and vacate the buildings they now occupy — a condition that is probably unacceptable to many.
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