Feb. 17 - Street protests continue in Ukraine despite acceptance of an amnesty offer. Rough cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Anti-government protesters kept the pressure on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Monday morning (February 17), despite the general prosecutor's announcement that criminal charges against activists would be dropped as part of an amnesty deal aimed at reducing tension between the government and its opponents. The prosecutor's announcement came after protesters agreed to their part of the deal which was to vacate government buildings and allow traffic to access through barricaded areas leading to government buildings in Kiev. The barricades, however, would not come down, protesters said. On Sunday morning (February 16) protesters left Kiev City Hall which they had occupied for two months. Despite the conciliatory moves, opposition leaders sought to keep up pressure on Yanukovich, telling a rally in Kiev's Independence Square that he must abandon "dictatorial" powers and let them form a government independent of him. The situation remains tense on the eve of a crucial session in parliament on Tuesday (February 18), when opposition groups will again push for a return to the 2004 constitution. Also on Tuesday, Yanukovich may present his candidate for prime minister to parliament - a choice that will show whether he is ready to make more concessions to the opposition after 12 weeks of often ugly street confrontation. The unrest was sparked by Yanukovich in November when he spurned a free trade agreement long in the making with the European Union and opted for a $15 billion package of Russian credits and cheaper gas to shore up Ukraine's ailing economy.