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Protesters in Ukraine demand full overhaul

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By USA Today
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 5:48 p.m.
 

KIEV, Ukraine — Anti-government demonstrators who have paralyzed the capital for weeks said on Wednesday that despite key concessions made by President Viktor Yanukovych, they want more — a complete change in their system.

“We need to change the parliament, and then re-elect the president,” said Lilia Kirikova, a designer from Kiev who has been at the protests in the center of the city regularly since they broke out in November.

“But the election must happen after we return to the constitution we had in 2004,” she added, referring to 2010 reforms giving the president more power over parliament. “The interior minister and the riot police must be punished for their violent actions.”

The protests began in late November after the president dismissed a trade deal with the European Union and instead set a course for closer ties with Russia.

Initially the demands by protesters centered on closer ties with Europe. But after numerous clashes with police and a refusal to back down, protesters have expanded their demands beyond amnesty for demonstrators. They are now demanding a change in the constitution to give more powers to parliament over the president and a full change in the regime.

So far, lawmakers have given in to only one demand by repealing Tuesday the anti-protest laws that prompted an escalation of street protests after they were adopted Jan. 16. That escalation resulted in five protester deaths. Also, the prime minister and the cabinet resigned, but not the president.

The amnesty was offered by Yanukovych to get back government buildings protesters have seized across the country. Parliament was supposed to vote on the measure Tuesday. Even so, protesters say they won't go.

“The amnesty law is good, but it is far from enough — it would mean the protest had no actual result,” said Svyatoslav Grysiuk, a middle-aged protester from Kiev.

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