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Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities release detained protesters

The Ukrainian authorities have released hundreds of detained protesters, fulfilling one of the opposition's major demands. Embattled President Viktor Yanukovych is now calling on the opposition to compromise.

In an apparent concession to the opposition, Ukrainian Attorney General Viktor Pshonka announced the release of 234 protesters from custody on Friday, two days ahead of a planned mass, anti-government rally in Kyiv's Independence Square.

Pshonka said that the charges against the protesters would be dropped if the conditions of the new amnesty law are met. The law offers amnesty to detained protesters only if the opposition agrees to vacate all of the government buildings it has occupied.

In a televised interview on Friday, President Viktor Yanukovych called on the opposition to make concessions, saying that he does not want to "wage war."

"I want to safeguard the state and resume a stable development," Yanukovych said. "We are asking the opposition to also make concessions."

Under pressure from the mass demonstrations, Yanukoych sacked his government last month and offered key positions to opposition politicians. But the opposition says that they will not abandon their posts until the president resigns.

"The only subject of negotiation with Yanukoych are the conditions of his departure," said former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in an interview with weekly Dzerkalo Tyzhnia. Tymoshenko, an opposition leader, was convicted of abuse of power in 2011 and sentenced to seven years in prison. The EU has criticized the conviction as politically motivated.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the EU on Friday of trying to extend its "sphere of influence" to Ukraine.

The protesters took to the streets in November, after President Yanukoych opted not to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Instead, he accepted a $15 billion loan from Russia.

slk/crh (AFP, KNA)