Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is returning to work after four days of illness. Meanwhile the EU and the US are reportedly working on an aid package for the country amid ongoing anti-government unrest.
Yanukovych was due back at work on Monday following what officials described as an “acute respiratory infection.”
“After concluding the necessary treatment, the president feels well,” Yanukovych’s office announced in a statement on Sunday. “His physical condition is satisfactory,”
Protests continued during the president’s four-day leave, with an estimated 20,000 people gathering on the streets of the capital, Kyiv, on Sunday.
Recent government concessions, including the repeal of a controversial anti-protest law and the resignation of Ukraine’s Cabinet and vice president, have done little to quell over two months of unrest. The opposition say protests will continue until Yanukovych himself steps aside and early elections are called.
On Sunday two leading opposition figures, former Economy and Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and recently retired heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko stepped up their calls for assistance from the international community.
Yatsenyuk told the protesters it was time for “real financial aid.” Klitschko added an international role was needed to avoid “misunderstandings” during negotiations with the government.
EU, US assistance
Until now the West has only formerly pledged verbal support, offering to mediate in talks with the government.
However, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday, the international community is now also working on a financial aid package.
The European Union and the United States are putting together a plan for significant short-term financial assistance aimed at helping Ukraine into a period of political transition, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was quoted as saying on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
During that period, a broad-based interim government could make political and economic reforms in preparation for presidential elections, currently due next year, Ashton said.
The EU and the United States are “developing a plan – a Ukrainian Plan, I have suggested they call it – that looks at what do we need to do in different parts of the economy right now to make things better,” Ashton said.
She added that the aid package “won’t be small,” and would not require Ukraine to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, as has been the case with previous EU aid promises.
The journal alleged the aid was designed to “sway the outcome of the political crisis.”
Ashton is expected to return to Kyiv on Tuesday in a follow-up effort, following her visit last week, to promote dialogue between the opposition and government.
Protests first began in November, when Yanukovych canceled an Association Agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties to Russia. The demonstrations have turned violent in recent weeks, with four protesters confirmed killed and roughly 500 reported injured.
Injured activist leaves hospital
Ukraine’s period of unrest has been rife with opposition allegations of brutality at the hands of Ukrainian authorities.
The case of opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov, in particular, who claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured because of his involvement in anti-government protests, has prompted EU and US officials to react with shock.
Bulatov emerged with severe injuries on Friday after more than a week missing, prompting Ashton to say she was “appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture.”
The authorities accused Bulatov of organizing violent protests, launched criminal investigations, and expressed doubts that he was tortured.
Bulatov left Ukraine for medical treatment in Lithuania on Sunday after recieving permission to leave the country from a Kyiv court.
ccp/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)