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Ukraine PM steps down, parliament repeals anti-protest laws

In response to the escalating civil unrest in the country, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned from office [press release] Tuesday as parliament repealed harsh anti-protest laws [text] passed earlier this month. "For the sake of a peaceful settlement of the conflict, I took my personal decision to ask the President of Ukraine to accept my resignation from the position of the Prime minister of Ukraine," Azarov said in his resignation statement. Both events came as response to the country's ongoing political crisis as anti-government protesters have occupied the capital city of Kiev, calling for new elections to replace current President Viktor Yanukovych [official website]. The protests began peacefully in November, but became violent after the now repealed protest laws increased police power in cracking down on demonstrators.

Earlier this month, Yanukovych promised concessions [JURIST report] including amnesty for many imprisoned demonstrators and reform of anti-protest laws in an effort to curb the unrest. The EU issued a statement January 20 calling for repeal of the anti-protest laws [JURIST report] which they condemned as "restrict[ing] the Ukrainian citizens' fundamental rights of association, media and the press." The controversial legislation was signed [JURIST report] by Yanukovych January 18 with bans including blockading public buildings and protesters wearing masks or helmets. The demonstrations began [JURIST report] in December when Yanukovych rejected an EU trade agreement in favor of closer economic ties with Russia.

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