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January 20, 2014

Ukrainian President Wants to Talk With Opposition

by VOA News

Ukraine's capital remains in a tense standoff Monday after a day and night of clashes between anti-government protesters and police left dozens of people wounded on both sides.

Activists wearing hard hats and gas masks threw rocks and gasoline bombs at the outnumbered riot police, who responded with stun grenades and water cannons as temperatures went below freezing.

The clashes began Sunday, after more than 100,000 anti-government demonstrators rallied in Kyiv in defiance of new laws restricting protests.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko pleaded with the crowd to avoid violence, but was sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher and shouted down.

He later met with President Victor Yanukovych, who appointed a working group to address opposition complaints. Representatives from both sides are due to meet Monday.

Anti-government protesters have filled the streets of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities since November, when President Yanukovych backed out of a plan to sign a trade deal with the European Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden called for calm. She called the tension a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government's failure to acknowledge the people's legitimate grievances.​

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