World

Ukraine's President Approves Sweeping Anti-Protest Law

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has signed an anti-protest bill into law after the measure was rushed through parliament earlier in the week.

Ukraine's President Approves Sweeping Anti-Protest Law
The New York Times / Joseph Sywenkyj

It's a move that's given protesters in Ukraine even more to protest against.

"Ukraine officials have introduced laws that would outlaw much of the anti-government movement. The protest camp in downtown Kiev is now illegal. Ditto for the stage they set up." (Via BBC)

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych has signed a sweeping anti-protest bill into law — this, after the measure was rushed through the country's parliament earlier in the week. (Via YouTube / yanukovychvf)

It's a measure the The Washington Post calls "draconian," explaining it would "prohibit almost any protest, curtail freedom of speech, hobble the press, enable the government to ban citizens from using the Internet." 

Critics have called the move illegal and have accused the ruling party of a coup.

For nearly two months, Ukraine's opposition has staged protests in Kiev over Yanukovych's decision to ditch a highly anticipated trade pact with the European Union. (Via RT

He claimed he was under pressure from his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and that Putin threatened higher import duties if Ukraine signed the E.U. deal. (Via Euronews)

And perhaps as no surprise, many observers have noted the similarities between Ukraine's anti-protest laws and those already existing in Russia.

An editor at the Kyiv Post put it this way: "Welcome to the new police state. We call it Little Russia."

The Wall Street Journal also notes the laws seem to specifically target the tactics used by the opposition.

One of the laws introduces jail terms of up to 10 years in prison for protesters who block access to government buildings — which protesters have attempted before. (Via Sky News)

The law has drawn international condemnation, including from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

 

"The steps that were taken yesterday were anti-democratic and wrong." ‚Äč(Via YouTube / U.S. Embassy Kyiv)

And the E.U.'s enlargement chief tweeted he was "profoundly concerned." (Via Twitter / @StefanFuleEU)

Ukraine's foreign minister dismissed the criticism as "meddling in the internal affairs of our state." (Via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Meddling or not, a writer at Bloomberg questions whether their words will have much of an effect on the protesters. "The question now is what hope they have of changing anything if their leaders are passive and the West won't do anything but issue statements calling for 'transparency and accountability.'"

The State Department has, however, warned that Ukraine's top officials could be subject to visa bans and frozen assets if violence against protesters continues.