Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

As Ukraine's troubles mount, president takes sick leave

UkraineActivismUkraine Crisis (2013-2014)Freedom of the PressVitali Klitschko

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has taken a sick leave amid the nation's political crisis.

“Ukraine's president is on a sick leave in connection with an acute respiratory disease accompanied by high fever,” Alexander Orda, the presidential staff's deputy health chief, said in a statement posted on Yanukovich's official website Thursday morning.

The announcement came a day after Yanukovich compelled parliament to sign a conditional amnesty for more than 100 detained participants in protests that started over two months ago when Yanukovich refrained from signing an association and trade deal with the European Union.

The protests were predominantly peaceful until mid-January, when Yanukovich endorsed a number of controversial laws curbing rights to assembly and free speech. That move set off a fierce confrontation between thousands of protesters and riot police in central Kiev.

The conflict raged for most of last week and left at least four protesters dead, hundreds injured on both sides and dozens of protesters detained in Kiev and elsewhere in the country.

Protesters also clashed with police and captured key government and municipal buildings in more than a dozen regional centers across Ukraine.

The detained protesters could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison for mass rioting. The new laws, which only added fuel to the fires of popular unrest, were canceled by parliament Tuesday after the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Both steps were part of a compromise between Yanukovich and the opposition leaders to prevent further fighting, which has already turned Grushevsky Street in central Kiev into a battlefield with carcasses of burned police buses still used by protesters as barricades.

The amnesty hinges on the return of all captured government premises within 15 days.

The protesters insisted on immediate and unconditional amnesty. When parliament, which is controlled by Yanukovich's allies, adopted the conditional amnesty late Wednesday, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko said the law would only aggravate the tense situation.

"Regretfully, the decision adopted by parliament will add heat to the [confrontation] in society instead of cooling it off, " Klitschko told reporters after Wednesday's session.

Some analysts noted that while Yanukovich's illness may give both sides time to regroup, it could be more beneficial to the president, who has seemingly been cornered by the opposition's mounting pressure.

“Yanukovich's disease, whatever it is, most likely is connected with the accumulated stress of recent weeks full of confrontation and violence,” Igor Rogov, president of Politika Analytical Center, a Kiev-based think tank, said in a phone interview. “The news primarily means that Yanukovich will not be for some time available to continue negotiations with the opposition and meet with concerned foreign visitors. In a sense, time is playing for the president given that temperatures in Kiev fell this week to minus 22 to [minus] 30, which makes the physical presence of protesters in the streets an increasing challenge."

The opposition continues to demand early elections for the presidency and parliament as the key condition for ending street protests.



Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
UkraineActivismUkraine Crisis (2013-2014)Freedom of the PressVitali Klitschko
  • Ukraine parliament offers protesters conditional amnesty
    Ukraine parliament offers protesters conditional amnesty

    KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s parliament on Wednesday voted to grant a conditional amnesty to more than 100 antigovernment protesters arrested in recent days, but the move failed to keep demonstrators outside from preparing for the possibility of more violent confrontations with...

  • Hopkins picked to create Ebola training tool
    Hopkins picked to create Ebola training tool

    Federal health regulators picked Johns Hopkins Medicine on Friday to lead development of a Web-based tool to train doctors, nurses and other health care workers on the protocols they should follow when treating patients with, or at risk of contracting, Ebola.

  • Retailers get ready for a brighter holiday season
    Retailers get ready for a brighter holiday season

    Consumers may be thinking more about buying candy for Halloween than gifts for the holidays right now, but food-themed tree ornaments already sprout from a display at Sur La Table in Towson Town Center.

  • Police search Towson U office of rabbi
    Police search Towson U office of rabbi

    Police searching the Towson University office of a prominent Georgetown rabbi accused of secretly recording women in a ritual bath found a backpack with an assortment of tiny cameras hidden in everyday household objects, including a computer charger, a clock and a tissue box, according to a...

  • In rare move, hands-on Ulman seeks job as No. 2
    In rare move, hands-on Ulman seeks job as No. 2

    Democrat Ken Ulman, dressed in Lucky jeans and a polo shirt, strode to the entrance of Robinson Nature Center, excited to give a tour of one of his favorite accomplishments as Howard County executive.

  • Rutherford known for 'making the trains run on time'
    Rutherford known for 'making the trains run on time'

    Boyd Rutherford was raised in a Democratic family in Democratic Northeast Washington, but the running mate of Republican Larry Hogan says he decided early on that the GOP was closer to his values.