Ukrainian lawmakers on Thursday moved towards meeting one of the demands of anti-corruption protesters who have set up the first tent city in Kiev since the pro-EU revolt of 2014.
The crisis-torn former Soviet republic has been on edge since nearly 5,000 people rallied outside parliament on Tuesday demanding a more forceful fight against engrained government graft.
They have since set up dozens of khaki-coloured tents in a park and street that run alongside the parliament building -- and they appear intent on staying put until their demands are met.
Some 1,000 activists gathered outside the chamber on Thursday as lawmakers agreed to push forward for Constitutional Court review a bill stripping parliament members of immunity from prosecution starting in 2020.
President Petro Poroshenko submitted the proposal on Tuesday in what seemed like an effort to ease the political tensions gripping the city.
But protest leaders want deputies to lose their legal protection sooner.
A fast-tracked process could see the immunity issue resolved next year. Deputies also asked the Constitutional Court to review that option.
‘It is small, but it is still a victory,’ protest leader Mustafa Nayem wrote on Facebook.
The return of a tent city to Kiev underscored a growing sense that the promises made during the 2014 ‘Maidan’ uprising have gone unfulfilled by Poroshenko and his Western-backed team.
‘Still, a fact is a fact,’ Nayem wrote.
‘In the three years since Maidan, parliament timidly avoided the (immunity) issue. But it remembered after the people came out on the streets.’
Parliament was due later on Thursday to debate changes to the electoral system that would help independent lawmakers gain seats and make the voting process more transparent.
But they have not yet scheduled a debate on launching an anti-corruption court that Kiev's lenders at the International Monetary Fund have said would be a ‘benchmark’ of Ukraine's progress toward Western standards.
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