News / Europe

    Ukrainian Opposition Leaders Voice Optimism as Crisis Talks End

    Opposition leader and former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko addresses protesters near the burning barricades between police and protesters in central Kyiv, Jan. 23, 2014.
    Opposition leader and former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko addresses protesters near the burning barricades between police and protesters in central Kyiv, Jan. 23, 2014.
    VOA News
    Ukrainian opposition leaders emerged late Thursday from crisis talks with President Viktor Yanukovych, saying an opportunity exists to end weeks of political turmoil and violence gripping the capital, Kyiv.

    Ukraine's Unian news agency quoted one opposition figure, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as saying, "there is a very high chance" the ongoing police confrontation with protesters in Independence Square will soon end.

    Neither Yatsenyuk nor boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, who also participated in the talks, elaborated; but, television footage later showed both men addressing thousands of protesters gathered in the square, as a fragile truce called earlier in the day continued.

    Opposition leaders and their supporters are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, early presidential elections and the lifting of recently-imposed restrictions on protests.  

    Russian television reported the talks included a possible rollback in the new laws and changes to the prime minister's Cabinet; however, there had been no official government announcements by early Friday, and the situation remained unclear.

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden telephoned Yanukovych Thursday to urge an immediate de-escalation in the increasingly violent standoff.

    • An opposition supporter looks on as he warms himself next to a fire in a barricade near Kyiv's Independence Square, Jan. 31, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters march in central Kyiv, Jan. 31, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters march in central Kyiv, Jan. 31, 2014.
    • An opposition supporter stands next to a burning tire at a barricade in central Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
    • Riot police stand in a cordon facing anti-government protesters as temperatures stand at minus 20 degrees Celsius at a barricade near Independence Square in Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
    • Anti-government protesters walk in the tent city at Independence Square in Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
    • Protesters, with signs reading "Mother" on their chests, and ""The government don't kill our children," walk away from a police cordon in central Kyiv, Jan. 30, 2014.
    • Members of various anti-government paramilitary groups walk in formation during a show of force in Kyiv, Jan. 29, 2014. 
    • Members of various anti-government paramilitary groups attend a religious service at a chapel in Kyiv, Jan. 29, 2014. 
    • A protest camp in Independence Square, Kyiv, Jan. 28, 2014. (H. Ridgwell/VOA)
    • Protest camps in Independence Square, Kyiv, Jan. 28, 2013. (H. Ridgwell/VOA)

    A White House statement said Biden also warned the embattled Ukrainian leader that "further bloodshed will have consequences for Ukraine's relationship with the United States."  At least three opposition protesters were killed Wednesday in Kyiv, as the protests entered their third month.

    The U.S. warning came a short while after regional news outlets began reporting protesters storming government offices in at least three locations in western Ukraine.  In the city of Lviv, protesters surrounded the regional governor, Oleh Salo and forced him to write a letter of resignation.  Russian television showed earlier scenes of burning barricades in Kyiv and said at least 300 people were injured in the city late Wednesday and early Thursday.

    The crisis was spawned by the president's November 21 decision to back out of a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia.  The Kyiv government's decision resulted in a multi-billion-dollar bailout from Moscow that analysts say staved off near-certain bankruptcy for the impoverished country.

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