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Ukraine: Standoff in Kyiv during key talks

24th Jan 2014

Three Ukrainian opposition leaders have emerged from ‘crunch’ talks with President Viktor Yanukovych, with one of them saying there was a chance of ending a standoff that turned violent in Kyiv in recent days.

The leader of Ukraine’s opposition Fatherland party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said there is a “high” chance of finding a solution to the standoff in central Kyiv.


Protestors and police had waited amid makeshift barricades and rancid smoke from burning tires as the delayed talks stretched four hours into the late evening.

Alongside Yatsenyuk, the talks also involved the boxer-turn-politician Vitali Klitschko of the UDAR (Punch) party and nationalist leader Oleg Tyagnybok.

Klitscho drew boo calls from some anti-government protestors when he asked demonstrators for more patience. He added that Ukraine’s pro-Russian administration had promised to release 100 detained protestors within three days.

The opposition had previously billed the talks with the president as a last chance for the authorities to offer concessions after five days of increasingly violent clashes.

Despite opposition calls to resign, Yanukovych had earlier announced a special session of parliament for next week. The parliamentary website said that session would be held on Tuesday.

‘Frontline’ truce

Klitschko had brokered a frontline truce ahead of Thursday’s talks. They had been due to begin at 3 p.m., local time, but were delayed.

“Keep the barricades in place but [be] calm until the talks finish,” Klitschko had said before entering the talks with Yanukovych.

Orthodox priests tried to maintain the shaky cease-fire along the barricades.

Two months of  protest had turned fatal on Wednesday, when at least three protestors were killed during clashes with police that left numerous people injured on both sides.

Video emerges

Anger was fueled by an online video that purported to show police humiliating a naked protester at what looked like a location close to the site of the Kyiv clashes.

The Interior Ministry later apologized “for the impermissible actions of persons wearing police uniforms.”

The protests began in November after Yanukovych turned away from closer ties with the European Union in favor of getting a bailout loan from Russia.

Sunday’s protest turned violent after parliament pushed through harsh anti-protest laws and rejected protestors’ demands that the government resign, new elections be called and that the anti-protest legislation be rescinded.

Resignation forced

Unrest spread beyond to western regions of Ukraine on Thursday.

In Lviv, a city near the Polish border, hundreds of activists burst into the office of regional governor Oleh Salo. The Yanukovych appointee later retracted a resignation note, saying he had signed under duress.

Similar incidents took place at governors’ offices in the regions of Ivano-Frankivsk and Rivne.

Telephone diplomacy

In a telephone call to Yanukovych, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged him to repeal the anti-protest laws and start “serious dialogue with the opposition,” according to a statement released by her Berlin office.

Senior EU and US politicians also had phone calls with Yanukovych.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she would visit Yanukovych and opposition leaders in Kyiv next week.

“The doors to dialogue and a political solution have to be kept open,” she said.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele was to visit Kyiv on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda: “We feel regret and indignation about the obvious foreign interference in the developments in Kyiv”

ipj/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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