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Ukraine prosecutor confirms amnesty after protesters abandon city hall

Ukraine’s public prosecutor has confirmed criminal charges against anti-government protesters will be dropped. The amnesties came after the occupation of Kyiv city hall was ended by protesters, who issued an ultimatum.

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Ukrainian protesters end occupation

The statement said that the amnesty would come into effect on Monday, appearing to admit that protesters had met the conditions set by the authorities.

"The (amnesty) law comes into force from February 17, 2014, and stipulates that charges against people having committed offences... will be dropped," Ukraine's public prosecutor's office said in a statement late Sunday.

Ukrainian opposition protesters had earlier ended their two-month occupation of the city hall, fulfilling part of the amnesty offer conditions set by President Viktor Yanukovich's government. However, demonstrators - suspicious of the government's willingness to honor its end of the deal - immediately issued an ultimatum for the amnesty to be granted, threatening to reoccupy government buildings if it were not.

"If they do not immediately announce the complete and unconditional rehabilitation (of protesters) in some 2,000 cases, we will retake city hall," lawmaker Andriy Illenko, from the nationalist opposition Svoboda (Freedom) party, told protesters. "This ultimatum expires in several hours," he had warned, as around 150 protesters gathered in front of the building.

There was also pressure from the EU, in the form of a statement from EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. "I expect such action to be taken without delay so as to facilitate the political dialogue in parliament this week," she said.

Yanukovych had approved the law at the beginning of the month, with the condition stipulated that protesters should end their occupation of public buildings. The opposition has also agreed to vacate part of the Kyiv's Grushevsky Street, allowing traffic to move freely.

Meeting with Merkel

Opposition leaders Vitalli Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk were set to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, and were expected to press her for a financial help package from Europe to the Ukraine, as well as visa-free travel within the EU for Ukrainian citizens.

Demonstrators took over Kyiv's city hall on December 1, about a week after mass street protests broke out.

The unrest came in response to Yanukovych's decision to Tens of thousands rally in Kyiv in pro-Europe protestabandon a long-anticipated political and economic treaty with the European Union.# Yanukovych at the time said he feared Brussels was not offering a sufficient financial cushion for the trade that could be lost with Russia.

The Kremlin, which would prefer Kyiv to join a Moscow-led customs union, in December announced a deal guaranteeing the purchase of Ukrainian government bonds, as well as a heavy discount for the country on the price of Russian natural gas.

rc/av (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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