Ukrainian protesters refuse to leave until demands are met
Saturday, February 15, 2014 - 00:28
Feb. 15 - Euro Maidan protesters say they will not leave Kiev's Independence Square until their demands are met. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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The streets around Kiev's Independence Square continued to be tense on Saturday (February 15), a day after Ukrainian authorities provisionally freed the last 234 detained protesters under an amnesty offer aimed at defusing protracted street unrest, but activists decried the move as a sham and pressed for further concessions.
Though police released the last of 234 detained protesters on Friday (February 14), criminal charges have not been lifted against them. They face prosecution at some point in the future for participating in "mass disorder" - a charge carrying a sentence of several years in prison - unless their comrades leave occupied buildings and clear blocked roads.
President Viktor Yanukovich's government has fixed Monday as the deadline for all occupied municipal buildings to be cleared of protesters and barricades to be removed from city centre roads in the capital Kiev in exchange for the release of the detainees and a possible future pardon.
Yanukovich negotiated the amnesty offer through parliament to try to take the sting out of street protests in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine that have kept him on the back-foot since he spurned a trade pact with the European Union in November.
With much of downtown Kiev a fortified camp where hundreds of "Euro-maidan" activists keep up protests behind barricades and sandbags, Yanukovich wants to tamp down tension before he picks a new prime minister, possibly as early as next week.
But with protesters highly suspicious about virtually any offer from Yanukovich's side, there seemed little chance of them relinquishing control of the streets by next week, though they said late on Friday that they might allow traffic to pass on the main road leading to government headquarters.
At least six people have been killed in clashes with riot police - unprecedented in the 22 years since Ukraine gained independence - since thousands of protesters rebelled against Yanukovich's sudden move to snub the EU in favour of forging closer economic ties with former Soviet master Russia.
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