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Ukraine president promises concessions in response to spreading protests

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych [official website] promised concessions on Friday in response to the growing unrest in the country. The concessions would include [AP report] a change in Yanukovych's cabinet members, amnesty for many imprisoned protesters who have not been accused of serious crimes, and reform of the country's anti-protest legislation. At a meeting with religious leaders Yanukovych called for a special parliament meeting next Tuesday to push the reforms through. Yanukovych reached out [Al Jazeera report] to opposition leaders in an effort to end the crisis in a series of unannounced meetings. The formerly peaceful protests have become increasingly violent with reports of detained protesters being abused by police. The demonstrators are calling for Yanukovych to resign and for new elections to be held. Presidential allies still control a majority of parliament, despite pressure amid the clashes for members to resign.

The civil unrest has gripped Ukraine for the past two months. Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for dialogue [JURIST report] between protesters and Ukraine officials to end the violence. Their statements came after Yanukovych signed a controversial anti-protest bill that included bans on protesters wearing masks or helmets and the dissemination of Internet slander. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Ukraine authorities to end the use of intimidation tactics [JURIST report] against protesters in December. The demonstrations began earlier that month after Yanukovych rejected a planned trade pact with the EU.

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