Ukraine protests: President Yanukovych returns from sick leave following 20,000 strong demonstration

President Yanukovych announced he would be taking sick leave on Thursday, sparking speculation he was preparing to step down.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych will return to work on Monday after sick leave, as protesters continued to call for his resignation on Sunday.

His absence since Thursday has been interpreted by some as a preparation to step out of office, while others see it as a prelude to a further crackdown on the widespread anti-government protests.

However, his office maintains that he was suffering from a fever and breathing problems.

His illness was announced the morning after the parliament voted to offer amnesty to protesters on the condition that demonstrators vacate occupied government buildings in Kiev and elsewhere in the country.

The measure was greeted with disdain by protesters, who viewed the move as the government creating a hostage situation, using protesters as a means to negotiating concessions. 

Ukraine protests: US steps up search for agreement at Munich Security Conference  

Protests continued despite his leave. Around 20,000 people had assembled at the main protest site in the capital Kiev’s Independence Square on Sunday, one of the largest gatherings to be held in almost three months of unrest.

Opposition leaders urged supporters at the rally to push forward with demands, with Arseniy Yatsenyuk emphasising the importance of the government releasing all of the people arrested during the protests.

“We must free all,” he said, adding that there were 116 people being held. “Freedom to every hero.”

Vitali Klitschko showed that opposition hopes for co-operation from abroad were high.

“The crisis will end at last when under the auspices of the international community we will hold new elections that will stop the regime of Yanukovych,” he said.

“Repression works in reverse. More people are coming to Maidan,” said demonstrator Tamara Tribko, using the abbreviated name of the square where an extensive tent camp has been established since early December.

Ukraine protests: Amnesty given as President Viktor Yanukovych faces pressure from Moscow  

Meanwhile authorities granted permission to a prominent opposition activist to leave Ukraine for treatment of injuries he sustained after allegedly being kidnapped and tortured.

Dmytro Bulatov went missing on 22 January and resurfaced a week later, heavily bruised and with part of an ear missing. The incident, along with the beatings of other activists, one of whom died, raised fears that government supporters are using brutal hirelings to intimidate the opposition.

Police had sought Mr Bulatov for questioning on suspicion of organising mass disorder, but prosecutors said he was free to go on Sunday.

The Baltic News Service said Mr Bulatov arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, shortly after midnight local time and was immediately rushed to a hospital.

The protests began in late November after Mr Yanukovych backed away from a long-awaited agreement to deepen ties with the European Union, and soon encompassed a wider range of grievances after police violently dispersed some early gatherings.

On Tuesday the Ukrainian Parliament is expected to consider reforms to the constitution that would reduce some presidential powers and allot them to the Prime Minister. Mr Yanukovych last week accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, but has not appointed a new one.

Additional reporting by PA

See incredible photos of clashes between protesters and the police in January below

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue