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Ukraine President Offers PM Position to Opposition

Ukraine's embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, is offering the position of prime minister to one of the leaders of the political opposition, which has waged two months of anti-government protests.

News of the offer appeared Saturday on the president's website, a day after he agreed to re-shuffle his government and amend controversial new anti-protest laws.

It is unclear whether the opposition leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has responded.

The opposition has demanded that both President Yanukovych and Ukraine's number two leader, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, step down. Protesters have also been calling for early elections.

The crisis was spawned by Mr. Yanukovych's November 21 decision to back out of a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia.

The decision resulted in a multi-billion-dollar bailout from Moscow that analysts say staved off near-certain bankruptcy for the impoverished country. But pro-European protesters were angered by the turn toward Moscow and took to the streets of the capital, Kyiv, where they have maintained a presence ever since.



The protests have spawned deadly clashes between protesters and police.

On Saturday, the opposition denied allegations that protesters are holding two police officers in Kyiv's occupied city hall.

Ukrainian officials have warned protesters to release the officers or face police action to free them.

President Yanukovych was meeting with opposition leaders on Saturday for the third time in a week.

Witnesses say the protest movement appears to have been infiltrated in recent weeks by members of a violent far-right militant group known as Right Sector, a loose alliance of nationalist organizations. The presence of the group adds a volatile element to the standoff that analysts say both the government and the mainstream opposition are struggling to contend with.

Anti-government forces were also occupying at least six regional capitals after storming government facilities across a wide swath of western Ukraine.

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