Opposition ready to vacate Kyiv City Hall after charges against activists dropped
A protester in a balaclava and a flak jacket plays the piano in Kyiv's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky)
Maria Danilova, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, February 15, 2014 6:50AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 15, 2014 3:18PM EST
KYIV, Ukraine -- A top Ukrainian opposition leader said Saturday that protesters are ready to vacate the Kyiv City Hall they have occupied for nearly three months -- if the government drops all charges against the demonstrators.
This week, the last of the 234 protesters were released from jail as part of an amnesty. The amnesty law also calls for the opposition to vacate seized government buildings in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine.
Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the nationalist Svoboda party, said Saturday the opposition is ready to vacate the Kyiv City Hall, used by protesters as a dormitory, if criminal cases against protesters are dropped. He added that a final decision will have to be approved by demonstrators on Kyiv's Independence Square, known as the Maidan.
"If we have guarantees that right after this step the government will close all the criminal cases against participants of the protest movement, with the consent of Maidan we are ready to take this step," Tyahnybok told reporters.
The protests erupted in November after President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a long-anticipated political and economic treaty with the European Union and sought a bailout loan from Russia. After police violently dispersed several rallies, the protests turned into a broader movement for human rights and against corruption. Yanukovych still remains popular in the Russian-speaking east and south of the country, where cultural and economic ties with Russia are strong.
Outside the Kyiv City Hall, many protesters were determined to keep up the protests in a bid to force Yanukovych to resign.
Natalia Dydenko, a 36-year-old artist from Kyiv, came to play the piano, colored in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian national flag, near the steps leading to city hall entrance, to support the protests.
"I wanted to play here, to become part of it all," Dydenko said. "Amnesty is a good thing, but we should not give up."