KIEV Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich went on sick leave on Thursday after a bruising session of parliament, leaving a political vacuum in a country threatened with bankruptcy and destabilised by anti-government protests.
The 63-year-old president has appeared increasingly isolated in a crisis born of a tug-of-war between the West and Ukraine's former Soviet overlord Russia. A former president said this week the violence had brought Ukraine to the brink of civil war.
Shortly after his office announced he had developed a high temperature and acute respiratory ailment, Yanukovich defended his record in handling the crisis and accused the opposition, which is demanding his resignation, of provoking the unrest.
"We have fulfilled all the obligations which the authorities took on themselves," he said, referring to a bill passed late on Wednesday granting a conditional amnesty for activists who had been detained.
"However, the opposition continues to whip up the situation, calling on people to stand in the cold for the sake of the political ambitions of a few leaders. I think this is wrong," the presidential statement said.
The amnesty offered freedom from prosecution to peaceful protesters, but only on condition that activists left official buildings they have occupied - something they have rejected.