11 Dec 2013

Ukraine’s Yanukovich offers talks to quell protests

The snowflakes – and the protesters – are still on the streets of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. But are relations beginning to thaw between the government and the opposition?

Ten days of protest, an overnight crackdown by the police which has drawn international calls for restraint, and impassioned pleas of “don’t hurt us!” from Ukrainian popstars.

But could the stand-off between the Ukrainian government and thousands of its pro-European citizens be reaching its endgame?

The demonstrators are calling for a re-think over Ukraine‘s attitude to Europe, after President Yanukovich pulled out of an EU trade deal to stay close to Russia.

Earlier, President Viktor Yanukovich asked all parties, including the opposition, to come to talks to try and find a way out of the impasse. His olive branch came after hours of talks with US and European Union officials, who urged him to compromise.

“I invite representatives of all political parties, priests, representatives of civil society to national talks,” he said in a statement that also called on the opposition not to “go down the road of confrontation and ultimatums”.

The protest leaders responded defiantly, saying they would not hold talks unless their demands – including the resignation of President Yanukovich – were met. The invitation to talk was “a farce and a comedy” said Oleh Tyahnibok.

Freezing streets

Despite plummeting temperatures protesters have been on the freezing streets of Kiev for almost two weeks. The Ukrainian capital’s Independence Square even saw a protest camp.

It appeared on Tuesday that President Yanukovich would attempt to end the protests overnight by force and police action – a step which the United States said it greeted with “disgust”.

Speaking on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the US State Department said all policy options, including sanctions, were under consideration.

The country has long had to balance its ties with east and west, but the recent deal saw things come to a head, leading to the calls for Yanukovich to resign.