Ukraine PM Mykola Azarov resigns, lawmakers repeal anti-protest laws after months of violent clashes

Anti-government protesters attend a march in central Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 27, 2014. AP

Last Updated Jan 28, 2014 9:12 AM EST

KIEV, Ukraine -- The prime minister of protest-torn Ukraine submitted his resignation on Tuesday, saying he hoped the move would help bring peaceful resolution to the crisis that has gripped the country for two months.

Mykola Azarov's offer of resignation could remove one of the figures most despised by the opposition. It came as the parliament opened a special session and voted to repeal harsh anti-protest laws imposed this month. Those laws set off the police-protester clashes in which at least three protesters died.

Azarov's resignation was swiftly accepted by President Viktor Yanukovych, who last week offered the premiership to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of the opposition's top figures. Yatsenyuk turned down the offer on Monday. 

  In addition, Yanukovych said an amnesty for dozens of protesters arrested in the demonstrations would be implemented only if protesters leave the streets and vacate buildings that they have occupied. Ending the protests without having other demands met appeared unlikely.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reported that Tuesday's moves came a day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called the Yanukovych and urged him to pull back the riot police and seek a peaceful solution. Biden warned that implementing a state of emergency would only inflame the situation.

The Tuesday moves fall short of opposition demands, which also include Yanukovych's resignation and a call for new elections.

The pro-Western protests in Kiev began Nov. 21 after Yanukovych shelved a long-planned political and economic treaty with the European Union, then accepted a huge bailout package from Russian President Vladimir Putin instead. The crisis was aggravated in recent days after protesters and police clashed violently.

In a statement on the government website, Azarov offered his resignation in order to encourage what he called "social-political compromise."

Police violently dispersed two of those protests, after which crowds grew substantially, angered by the brutality.  Protesters established an extensive tent camp in downtown Kiev's main square, where demonstrators have gathered around-the-clock since early December.

Protesters also seized several buildings, including the city hall, which they have used as makeshift operations centers and shelters.

After Yanukovych approved the anti-protest laws, demonstrations spread to other parts of the country, including to some cities in the Russian-speaking east, the base of Yanukovych's support.

Also unresolved is the issue that originally set off the protests - Yanukovych's shelving in November of a long-awaited agreement to deepen ties with the European Union.


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