Skip to main content

Ukraine leader to end sick leave, protesters remain on streets

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Victoria Butenko, CNN
updated 11:16 AM EST, Sun February 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Yanukovych is said to be feeling good after treatment
  • Yanukovych went on sick leave Thursday with "acute respiratory disease"
  • Thousands of protesters remain out in Kiev streets on Sunday
  • Ukraine rattled by protests, then clashes, since November

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych will return to work on Monday, after taking ill amid political unrest that has paralyzed the eastern European country.

Yanukovych went on sick leave on Thursday with "acute respiratory disease," his office said. He is now feeling "good" after treatment and his condition has been assessed as "satisfactory," a statement on the presidential website said.

Ukraine has been plunged into a deep political crisis that in the last week saw the Prime Minister and Cabinet resign, a controversial anti-protest law repealed, and the President signing off on a contested amnesty bill for anti-government protesters.

Thousands of demonstrators have packed Kiev's Independence Square since November, when Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the European Union and turned instead toward Russia.

Kiev protesters hunker down against cold
'Civilized' Ukraine future at stake

The government's attempts to crack down on protests appear only to have strengthened the opposition's resolve. Violent confrontations flared after a sweeping anti-protest law was signed two weeks ago, followed by an uneasy standoff on the streets as the battle in the political arena has heated up.

On Sunday, the demonstrators showed no signs of leaving, again massing in Independence Square despite freezing temperatures.

Amnesty bill

Despite concessions last week from Yanukovych, including repeal of the controversial law, Ukraine's opposition parties continue to call for constitutional reforms to shift power away from the president.

They say the new amnesty bill -- which only comes into force if protesters vacate seized government buildings and unblock roads and squares -- is unacceptable.

A special parliamentary session is scheduled for Tuesday.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and the European Union "stand with the people of Ukraine" in their fight for the right to choose alliances with countries other than Russia.

After his address, Kerry met with three Ukrainian opposition leaders -- Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland party, Vitali Klitschko of the UDAR party and Petro Poroschenko of the "Euromaidan" street protest movement -- the State Department said.

Ukraine, a country of 45 million people, is split between pro-European regions in the West and a more Russia-oriented East.

Also speaking at the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the United States and the European Union appeared to be trying to push their own ideas on Ukraine.

Deadly clashes last month were an escalation of weeks of largely peaceful public protests prompted by Yanukovych's decision in November to spurn a planned trade deal with the European Union and favor Russia instead.

He and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on a $15 billion deal for Russia to buy Ukrainian debt and slash the price of natural gas.

Yanukovych has resisted calls for him to step down and defended the government's handling of the political crisis.

READ: What's behind Ukraine's crisis

READ: Ukraine through a protester's eyes

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark and Nic Robertson contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Action needs to be taken immediately before affected states potentially collapse, says campaigner Bob Geldof.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 8:18 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
updated 7:18 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Australian PM Tony Abbott vows to "shirt-front" Russia's Putin over the MH17 disaster.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Serbia and Albania try to play but the major game is called off after a drone flying a political flag enters the stadium.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
George Clooney's new wife, is now Amal Clooney, raising the issue of married names.
updated 1:57 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
The mysterious unmanned X-37B space plane returns to Earth after more than two years in space. But the U.S. Air force isn't saying much.
updated 12:55 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Public health experts are asking whether the CDC is getting the wrong message out.
updated 11:41 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
It's no longer necessary to launch your startup in Silicon Valley -- thanks to the internet, you can do it anywhere.
updated 5:00 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
From a "democracy wall" to a towering "Umbrella man" statue, see the best art from the massive protests in Hong Kong.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT