Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is taking a sick leave, while the protesters are asking for his resignation. The presidential website said that Yanukovych suffers an acute respiratory illness and high fever.
Some have seen the announcement in such a crucial moment as suspicious and a sign that Yanukovych may be losing power.
The announcement came two days after the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in a concession to the protesters and after the elimination of the anti-protest laws by the parliament. Also came one day after the passing of the amnesty law for the arrested protesters – more than 300 – that would be effective only if the demonstrators vacate the public buildings they occupy. Yanukovych have to sign the laws, but being on leave it’s not clear when he would do it..
With temperatures dropping to -20 Celsius the buildings are vital as shelters at night to the protesters. This is why the opposition didn’t like the precondition of the amnesty lay and the protesters rejected it. Also they sustain that the arrests were unlawful and the protesters have to be released immediately without charges.
Protesters are demanding Yanukovych’s resignation, early elections and the firing of authorities responsible for violent police dispersals of demonstrators.
With the president on sick leave and the Prime Minister out of office the higher authority to deal with the crisis is the deputy Prime Minister.
Ukraine’s political uprising began two months ago as a pro-European movement when Yanukovych decided at the last moment to reject a broad agreement with the European Union negotiated for years. Instead he accepted a $15bn bailout from Russia. The opposition accused him to act under the dictate of Moscow.
Now, the Kremlin has said it may fail to pay the loan in full if the government changes. But the government already resigned, so the future of the bailout is highly uncertain, and the Ukrainian economy can crash.
Let’s hope that in this vacuum of power in the middle of such a critical situation there will be no more violence in the streets.