Ukraine passes anti-protest law

 

Supporters of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich have hustled a sweeping law through parliament in an attempt to curb anti-government protests, sparking an outcry from the opposition and raising tensions on the streets.

The law, backed by deputies from Yanukovich's Regions Party and allies, also adopted a similar stance to Russia on registration of foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs), insisting they should pay taxes on profit.

NGOs that were financed from abroad and took part in political activity in Ukraine would be categorised as “foreign agents”, it said.

But the law, which ran to more than 100 pages, appeared directed mainly at preparing the ground for action to end the street protests that have been taking place in the capital Kiev and some other cities since November.

Yanukovich's refusal at that time to sign a free trade deal with the European Union in favour of boosting ties with Ukraine's former Soviet master Russia brought hundreds of thousands on to the streets in protest.

Though numbers have dwindled since, several hundred people remain camped out on Kiev's central square of Kiev or are occupying public buildings such as City Hall. On Sunday, at least 50,000 people demonstrated against Yanukovich in Kiev.

The law, which still needs Yanukovich's signature, bans any unauthorised installation of tents, stages or amplifiers in public places, on pain of a fine of up to £390 or up to 15 days in detention.

People and organisations who provide facilities or equipment for such meetings will be liable to a fine of up £780 or detention of up to 10 days.

Opposition politicians regularly use a stage on the square to broadcast messages of support to the protesters, and the law will clearly make such action illegal.

Other tough but vaguely-worded threats envisage jail sentences ranging from two to 15 years for offences involving stopping people entering buildings or “mass violation” of public order.

Protest 'motorcades' involving more than five vehicles, like those staged outside government residences including that of Yanukovich in recent weeks, were also banned.

The decision in parliament, taken by a sudden show of hands that caught the opposition off-guard, followed a court ban on protests in Kiev, boosting opposition fears of an imminent police crackdown.

“The people of Ukraine have been deprived of civil rights and liberties. According to these laws, standing on the Maidan (central square) is prohibited, setting up tents is prohibited, talking about corrupt judges is prohibited. And many other things are also banned,” said boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, an opposition leader who is regarded as a potential strong challenger to Yanukovich for the presidency.

“The authorities can at the same time intimidate and beat activists and confiscate the driving licences and property of AutoMaidan activists, and ignore the demands of the citizens,” Klitschko said. “That is why a change of power and the Yanukovich regime in Ukraine is our main objective.”

The law would make it an offence punishable by up to 15 days' detention to wear a mask or face-covering like that adopted by many of the protesters, particularly those from the nationalist parties.

Dissemination of “extremist” and libellous information would also be banned - a clause that and seemed to be aimed at forcing the removal of political graffiti pillorying Yanukovich and his government on walls and bill-boards.

The move was sure to fuel opposition suspicions that riot police would soon move in to end two months of protests. These have widened into rallies, sometimes involving thousands of people at the weekend, against sleaze and corruption in power.

The EU's ambassador to Ukraine, Jan Tombinsky, joined opposition leaders in condemning the way the law was rushed through parliament by a show of hands rather than by the customary electronic system of voting - a mechanism that opposition deputies can physically block.

“Norms should be adopted through proper procedures, otherwise the credibility of democratic institutions and of the legal system is at stake,” he said in a statement.

In Washington, the State Department expressed deep concern with the measures saying it “cast serious doubt on Ukraine's commitment to democratic norms.”

“A true democracy cannot function without dialogue, compromise, the right to peaceful dissent and a legislature that enjoys the people's trust,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Reuters

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee