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Ukraine's President Approves Anti-Protest Law

After weeks of demonstrations, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych signed into law new regulations which he hopes will curb anti-government protests.

The Washington Post calls the new laws "draconian," prohibiting "almost any protest." The paper adds:

"The legislation — rushed through a tumultuous parliament Thursday and signed into law by Yanukovych late Friday — gives the authorities far-reaching power to outlaw most forms of protest. But no one is sure whether Yanukovych will have the nerve to use that power against the continuing protest at an encampment in Kiev's Maidan, or Independence Square.

"Twice before he has sent police to clear the Maidan, and twice he has revived what had been a flagging opposition.

"His imprisoned nemesis, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, issued a scathing statement Friday.

"'This isn't just a blatant crime, for which those guilty, when the time comes, will face criminal liability,' she said. 'It's also the final step in the elimination of Ukrainian parliamentarism as the main branch of government in Ukraine.'"

As we've reported, the protests began in November after Yanukovych "backed away from an agreement to strengthen economic ties with the 28-nation European Union — a pact that enjoyed the support of roughly half of the people in the former Soviet republic. By moving closer to the EU, Ukraine would have weakened links with Russia, which has dominated the region for centuries."

Instead, Yanukovych has sought to strengthen ties with Russia.

The latest measures, reports the BBC, did not deter the opposition, which "called for a big gathering in the capital Kiev on Sunday."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.