Viktor F Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, went on sick leave Thursday, leaving negotiated efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis incomplete.
A statement on the president’s website said Yanukovych is taking time off because of a respiratory illness and fever, and offered no indication of how long he was expected to be absent. The statement cited a deputy director of the presidential administration responsible for medical affairs.
Yanukovych has faced pressure from Russia to take a harder line with protesters opposing his government rather than continue negotiations that could cede power to pro-Western opposition members.
Yanukovych went on sick leave before signing into law the repeal of harsh new rules against freedom of assembly and freedom of speech that was passed in Parliament with support from the pro-government party on Tuesday in a significant concession to the opposition but means little unless it is signed.
Opposition leaders and the government negotiated concessions in Parliament and protesters vacated one occupied government building on Wednesday, belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture. The prime minister, Mykola Azarov, resigned on Tuesday.
Late Wednesday, the pro-government Party of Regions passed a version of an amnesty law for protesters that lacked support from the opposition.
The law required the prosecutor general to certify that protesters had vacated all occupied administrative buildings, including the provincial capitols taken last week, before the amnesty would take effect. It also set a 15-day deadline to clear the buildings and required police action after that period.
As recently as Wednesday evening, Yanukovych had been working. At least one report indicated that he was “pale” and had said he was sick at the time, adding credence to the report of his illness.
Also on Wednesday, Russia halted financial aid that has kept Ukraine from defaulting on sovereign debt until a new government is formed in a sign of displeasure with negotiations with the pro-Western opposition for a coalition arrangement to end the crisis.
ANDREW E KRAMER
PHOTOS: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara Haasan take 'Shamitabh' to London