Update at 5:23 p.m. ET. President Offers To Scrap Anti-Protest Law:
As the protests continued, Ukraine's president made another concession on Monday: He said he would scrap a law that made protesting illegal. The law fueled already violent protests and helped them spread into areas of the country that were loyal to President Viktor Yanukovych.
The AP reports:
"In a statement on the presidential website, Justice Minister Elena Lukash said that in a meeting with top opposition figures and President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday night, "a political decision was made on scrapping the laws of Jan. 16, which aroused much discussion."
"Yanukovych pushed those laws through parliament. Three days later clashes with police broke out, a sharp escalation of tensions after weeks of mostly peaceful protests.
"Eliminating the laws, which is likely to be done in a special parliament session Tuesday, would be a substantial concession to the opposition. But it does not meet all their demands, which include Yanukovych's resignation."
Our original post continues:
The latest news from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, includes:
-- Word that anti-government demonstrations have spread to cities where the citizens normally show support for President Viktor Yanukovych. (Morning Edition)
-- A warning from Ukraine's justice minister to "anti-government protesters occupying her ministry [that] she will call for a state of emergency if they do not leave." (BBC News)
-- The likelihood that "imposing a state of emergency would ... further anger protesters, who on Sunday mourned Mikhailo Zhyznevsky, one of at least three victims of clashes between police and protesters last week. Thousands marched behind the coffin carrying the body of Zhyznevsky, a Belarusian who lived in Ukraine. He died of gunshot wounds." (The Guardian)
As for what would happen if a state of emergency is declared, BBC correspondent David Stern says "the question at the heart of the debate is whether the government can count on the loyalty of enough troops to first clear the streets of Ukraine's cities, and then deal with the inevitable violent backlash."
On Morning Edition, NPR's Corey Flintoff reported from Kiev that the protests against the Yanukovych government appear to have solid support from the middle class.
On Sunday, Corey said, tens of thousand of people gathered in the capital's central square — "most of them standing quietly." There were many middle-aged and middle-class people in the crowd.
Over the weekend, as we reported, Yanukovych offered the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister to two of the protest leaders. His offer was rejected, however.
"The opposition says it [was] a trick," Corey reported — an offer that would "put them in a much worse position if they accepted it" because the president and his supporters still control the parliament and would make the prime minister and deputy posts largely irrelevant.
What the protesters want, as Corey reminded us, is an end to government corruption, freedom for political prisoners and for Ukraine to be aligned with the European Union, not Russia. That means Yanukovych needs to go, they insist.
The protests began last November when Yanukovych backed away from a pending deal with the EU. They have accelerated in the past week to 10 days.