Ukraine President Offers Opposition Power Share After Deaths
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych offered to share power with the opposition after two months of protests turned deadly, while stopping short of meeting their demand for his resignation and a snap election.
Yanukovych is ready to name opposition leaders to the top cabinet jobs, Interior Minister Olena Lukash said in a statement on the president’s website today. Arseniy Yatsenyuk was offered the premiership and Vitali Klitschko the post of deputy prime minister, she said. They agreed to wind down protests and the government to draw back police from the streets, Lukash said.
Yanukovych offered the biggest concessions yet as he’s struggling to stem rallies that against his November snub of a European Union cooperation deal, with police crackdowns fanning people’s anger. Four days of clashes left as many as six dead and 1,250 injured as laws to stem the protests took effect and police got special powers to quell the demonstrations. Yatsenyuk and Klitschko will address the crowd in central Kiev at 10:30 p.m., according to Yatsenyuk’s press office.
“The reshuffle offered by Yanukovych isn’t on protesters’ agenda now,” Vadym Omelchenko, the head of the Gorshenin Institute in Kiev, said by phone today. “The opposition understands this, they won’t take the offer seriously. They will probably suggest their package of demands for Yanukovych, containing more compromises.”
The government also offered an amnesty for protesters who agree to release administration buildings they have seized, Andriy Portnov, Yanukovych’s deputy chief of staff, said in a separate statement on the president’s website.
The two sides will start talks on changing the constitution and on repealing anti-protest laws that have ignited violence this week, according to Portnov The clashes have left as many as six people dead and more than 1,000 injured.
“This will present the opposition with a real conundrum,” Tim Ash, an economist at Standard Bank Group Plc in London, said in an e-mail. “Any coalition with Yanukovych will be fraught with difficulties. It could also damage their chances against Yanukovych in presidential elections.”
After both sides called yesterday for foreign mediation to help find a resolution to the crisis, opposition leaders met again today with Yanukovych, claiming the president plans to initiate a state of emergency. Officials including Prime Minister Mykola Azarov have denied such plans in recent days.
Riots flared up again in Ukraine’s capital last night, prompting the interior minister to say that peaceful efforts to end the unrest were useless.
After a day of calm, clashes resumed shortly after 10 p.m. yesterday near parliament as demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and police deployed rubber bullets and stun grenades. Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said the opposition had lost control over radical activists and warned peaceful protesters to vacate central Kiev or be deemed extremists.
Activists in Kiev, who seized the Agriculture Ministry yesterday, took over five floors and the basement of the Energy Ministry today, the Unian news service reported.
Protesters are also occupying buildings of governors picked by Yanukovych in the western cities of Lviv, Ternopil, Rivne, Lutsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Khmelnytskyi and Chernihiv and are targeting administrative offices in at least five more of the nation’s 24 regions, smashing their way in when police offered resistance, TV5 reported.
Yanukovych made personnel changes before his power-share offer. He named Andriy Klyuyev as head of his administration, promoting the Security Council chief protesters have called on to resign after demonstrators were injured in 2013 clashes with police. The president also appointed Portnov.
While Yanukovych earlier promised a cabinet shuffle and changes to the anti-rally bill at an emergency parliament session called for Jan. 28, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told reporters later that protesters won’t be satisfied until the president resigns.
The protests that have gripped Kiev since last year escalated this week with the first deaths. Police are investigating the discovery Jan. 22 of two bodies with gunshot wounds. Live ammunition caused the deaths, the Interior Ministry said Jan. 23, denying its officers fired the bullets. The activist who died today had been shot on Hrushevskogo Street, the site of the heaviest fighting, according to a statement on Svoboda’s website.
The opposition says six people have died, including one who fell off a colonnade after being beaten and another who was identified by his relatives after police found a body outside Kiev with signs of torture. A thousand people have been injured, while an instigator of car protests that targeted officials’ homes is missing, activists say.
About 250 policemen have sought medical help, the Interior Ministry said. An officer was found shortly before midnight yesterday in Kiev with a gunshot wound to the head, the ministry said on its website. Protesters denied involvement.
EU officials, who’ve said they may reassess their relations with Ukraine after the violence, are seeking to broker a peace deal in Kiev. Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule met Yanukovych and opposition yesterday, while Catherine Ashton, the bloc’s foreign-policy chief, is due. Jan. 30-31.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he discussed Ukraine with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Montreux, Switzerland, calling on his American counterpart not to interfere, according to the transcript of a TV interview on the ministry website.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said today that Yanukovych must end the violence and “constructively” engage the political opposition.
“The deteriorating situation in Ukraine is growing more worrisome by the day, he said in a statement on the website of the U.S. embassy in Kiev. ‘‘The world is watching and a peaceful resolution remains the only allowable outcome.’’
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