25 Jan 2014

Ukraine protests: president offers posts to opposition heads

Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovich offers top government positions to opposition leaders, including former international boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, in a bid to quell protests.

Ukraine protests: Vitaly Kitschko (left) and Arseiny Yatsenyuk (right)

Above: Vitaly Kitschko (left) and Arseniy Yatsenyuk (right)

After meeting opposition leaders, President Yanukovich offered Arseniy Yatsenyuk, thehead of Ukraine’s second biggest party and a former economy minister, the post of prime minister to replace Mykola Azarov and whose government would be expected to resign, the presidential website said.

Mr Klitschko would be appointed deputy prime minister responsible for humanitarian issues, it added.

Minister of Justice Olena Lukash said: “The president is confident that joint work with the opposition will help Ukraine unite and conduct reforms necessary for the state and the society.

“The president has once again expressed regret over the tragic accidents, injuries, victims of the conflicts and emphasized the inadmissibility of violence. We condemn all radical scenarios and their consequences.

There was no immediate reaction from the opposition leaders, who have been calling for the dismissal of Azarov’s government since unrest broke out two months ago after President Yanukovich rejected a trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

The deal would also mean President Yanukovich stay in power – something that protesters are opposed to.

Bonfires and drums

Protests have been continuing in Ukraine’s Independence Square, set to a backdrop of bonfires and drum beats.

On Saturday around 100 armed protesters tried to take control of the Energy Ministry building, Ukraine’s Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky said.

“There was an attempt to seize the building. About 100 people came, armed. I went to them and said that if they did not peacefully leave the building, then the whole energy system of Ukraine could collapse,” he said.

Mr Stavytsky said the action was a “direct threat to the whole Ukrainian energy system”.

Ukraine protests: the barricades (picture: Reuters)

Hundreds of activists have already occupied city hall and the agricultural ministry, both close to the energy ministry building, in increasingly violent protests against President Viktor Yanukovich’s rule.

The protest, known as EuroMaidan, has been largely peaceful. However, a hardcore of protesters have been fighting police, including throwing petrol bombs, in the streets of Kiev.

Over the past week the protests have escalated, with at least four people dead and running battles between protesters and police taking place.

Clashes in Ukraine (picture: Reuters)

Witnesses said protesters and police clashed overnight near Dynamo Kiev stadium, with the clash finishing at around 6am.

Meanwhile, thick smoke continues to rise across the capital from burning tyres in makeshift barricades.

Large rallies were expected to take place across Kiev over the weekend, despite promises from President Yanukovich to reshuffle the government and change recent anti-protest legislation.