The Verkhovna Rada [official website], the Parliament of Ukraine, on Wednesday passed a law granting conditional amnesty to protesters arrested during the weeks of unrest that have gripped the nation. The passage of this measure came during the parliament's extraordinary session [JURIST report], which began earlier in the day on Wednesday. Opposition parties refused to take part [BBC report] in the vote, due to the condition which states that amnesty will only apply if protesters abandon government buildings that they have seized. In the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, protesters have constructed a tent city in the city's major square, the Maidan [Forbes backgrounder], and maintain control over three buildings, including the Department of Agriculture building. Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk [Twitter profile] has criticized the law, stating that protesters will not leave until conditions to amnesty are dropped. Earlier this week embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website; JURIST news archive] offered [BBC report] the post of prime minister to Yatsenyuk, while Yatsenyuk has maintained calls for new presidential elections.
Protests began in November after the Ukrainian government abandoned [JURIST report] a proposed trade pact [EU backgrounder] with the EU.Tensions were further exacerbated when President Yanukovych signed [JURIST report] a series of laws [materials] earlier this month, which limited the right to protest government actions. Also in January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] issued statements [JURIST report] urging Ukrainian protesters to use restraint and calling on both the government and protesters to work towards constructive dialogue to diffuse the rising tension and violence that has gripped the nation. Earlier this week, in response to the escalating civil unrest in the country, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned from office [JURIST report] as the parliament repealed the harsh anti-protest laws passed earlier this month.