Ukraine chief goes sick amid crisis
Ukraine's embattled president Viktor Yanukovych is taking sick leave as the country's political crisis continues with no sign of a solution.
A statement on the presidential website today said Mr Yanukovych has an acute respiratory illness and high fever. There was no indication of how long he might be on leave or whether he would be able to do any work.
He is under pressure after two months of major protests seeking his resignation, early elections and other demands.
In a series of moves aiming at resolving the crisis, the parliament this week voted for the repeal of harsh anti-protest laws. Mr Yanukovych must formally sign that repeal. He also has accepted the resignation of his prime minister. But protesters say the moves are insufficient.
Mr Yanukovych made a late-night visit to the parliament on Wednesday before it passed a measure offering amnesty to some of those arrested in the protests, but only if demonstrators vacate most of the buildings they occupy. The offer was quickly greeted with contempt by the opposition.
But the opposition regards the arrests during the protests - 328 by one count - as fundamentally illegitimate.
"Is this a compromise, or are these political prisoners," said 30-year-old Artem Sharai, demonstrating on Kiev's central Independence Square. "We will seize new buildings, if the authorities don't really change the situation in the country."
Protesters are demanding Mr Yanukovych's resignation, early elections and the firing of authorities responsible for violent police dispersals of demonstrators. The protests started after he backed out of a long-awaited agreement to deepen ties with the European Union, but quickly came to include a wide array of discontent over corruption, heavy-handed police and dubious courts.
The bill would not apply to several city buildings in the centre of Kiev which the protesters use as dormitories and operation centres, and are key support facilities for the extensive protest tent camp on the main square. With temperatures dropping as low as -20C (-4F) during the night, continuing the protests without places to shelter would be virtually impossible.
But the Kiev city hall building, as well as regional administration ones seized by protesters in western Ukrainian cities, will have to be vacated, according to the Unian news agency.
Mr Yanukovych later issued a statement saying "the opposition continues to escalate the situation and urges people to stand in the frost for the sake of the political ambitions of several of its leaders".
Temperatures in Kiev have dropped as low as -20 (-4 F) on some nights, bringing severe discomfort to those manning a sprawling round-the-clock protest tent camp on Kiev's main square.