Ukraine passes tough anti-protest laws
Ukraine`s pro-government lawmakers today pushed through parliament tough legislation in an apparent bid to suppress protests against President Viktor Yanukovych.
Kiev: Ukraine`s pro-government lawmakers today pushed through parliament tough legislation in an apparent bid to suppress protests against President Viktor Yanukovych.
The opposition, which has been spearheading nearly two months of rallies against Yanukovych over his decision to ditch a key pact with the EU, branded the vote "a power grab."
According to the new legislation backed by 235 out of 450 lawmakers, a blockade of public buildings would be punishable by up to five years in prison.
The legislation also simplified a procedure to prosecute lawmakers.
According to the new law, protesters wearing masks or helmets will face a fine or an administrative arrest.
Dissemination of slander on the Internet was also banned and would be punishable by a fine or corrective labour of up to one year.
The sweeping legislation caused an outcry among opposition leaders who fear that the government would use the new legislation to prosecute them and break up the protest movement.
"The regime of Viktor Yanukovych and the Regions Party have completely destroyed state power in Ukraine," said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party.
"This is nothing else but an overthrow of the constitutional system and a power grab in Ukraine."
Last month, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in the capital Kiev and western Ukraine after Yanukovych decided to scrap key political and trade agreements with the EU.
The protests have since dwindled but the opposition maintains a protest camp on Kiev`s central Independence Square known locally as the Maidan.
Opposition lawmakers sought to disrupt the vote but pro-Yanukovych parliament members voted by a show of hands, provoking concern from foreign officials.