29 January 2014

Ukraine's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday, Jan 28, to overturn draconian anti-protest laws it approved only days earlier amid much international criticism, according to RIA Novosti.

Lawmakers gathered for an extraordinary session of parliament designed to soothe persistent political tensions playing out against the backdrop of protests across the former Soviet nation.

The decision to repeal the anti-protest law was supported by 361 deputies out of 412. Two deputies voted against, and 49 abstained.

The introduction of a package of laws designed to severely curb the freedom to protest earlier this month sparked a wave of violent confrontations between radical demonstrators and police, marring what had until then been weeks of otherwise peaceful anti-government protests.

Opposition parties have earlier called for a return to the constitutional reforms of 2004, which they say would hand greater authority to parliament.

Those reforms were overturned in 2010 by the Constitutional Court, which ordered a reversal to the 1996 constitution.

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ranko Krivokapic welcomed the decision and praised the country's "efforts to resolve the current crisis through democratic channels."

"I welcome the Ukrainian Parliament's vote to repeal the recently adopted anti-protest law and the law re-criminalizing defamation. Both of these measures called into question Ukraine's commitment to OSCE standards and served to heighten tensions -- and the country's lawmakers should be given credit for taking action," Krivokapic said.

"I also welcome the Ukrainian government's demonstrated commitment in the last several days to resolving the crisis through democratic channels, as seen through today's parliamentary votes and the continuing dialogue with the opposition. We also note that Mr. Azarov has resigned from the post of prime minister in a stated effort to foster political compromise. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has consistently advocated a peaceful, political settlement to the situation in Ukraine and we are hopeful that developments today and in the days ahead may hasten that end point," Krivokapic said.

The OSCE PA President also expressed concern at continuing violence, including the reported stabbing of three policemen by protesters in the city of Kherson. He reiterated calls for restraint on all sides and a thorough investigation into all violence against protesters, law enforcement officials, and journalists.