Burning barricades were extinguished in Ukraine's capital Kyiv Wednesday after anti-government protesters agreed to a brief truce in clashes with police until President Viktor Yanukovych finished a second round of meetings with opposition leaders.
The opposition leaders, including boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, early presidential elections and the lifting of recently-imposed restrictions on protests. On Wednesday, they set a 24-hour deadline for Mr. Yanukovych to agree to their demands.
President Yanukovych called Thursday for an emergency session of parliament to end the crisis. Prime Minister Azarov, attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, called the demand for early presidential elections "unrealistic" and accused the anti-government protesters of attempting a "coup d'etat."
On Wednesday, opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk told supporters "we will march forward together" if the president does not end the crackdown. At least three protesters have been killed in the clashes in Kyiv and hundreds have been injured.
Klitschko, speaking Wednesday alongside Yatseniuk, vowed to "do whatever it takes" to end the violence and resolve the crisis.
On Thursday, the unrest spread outside Kyiv when hundreds of anti-government protesters in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv stormed the office of the regional governor (Oleh Salo) and forced him to write a letter of resignation.
The United States has condemned the latest violence, and warned of possible sanctions against Ukraine if President Yanukovych fails to protect the democratic rights of all Ukrainians. The State Department blamed the violence on both the government and far-right extremists.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso urged Mr. Yanukovych in a telephone conversation Thursday to refrain from using violence and to enter into a dialogue with the opposition.
European Commission spokesman Oliver Bailly said that President Yanukovych reassured Mr. Barroso that he will not enact a state of emergency to end the protests.
On Wednesday, the European Commission president said he was "shocked" by the deaths of protesters in Ukraine and warned of "possible actions" by the EU against Kyiv should the situation deteriorate. Mr. Barroso said it was premature to say what those actions might be.
The protests were sparked by President Yankovych's decision last November to back out of an agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.