News / Europe

Ukraine's Concessions Fail to Sway Opposition Protesters, New Fighting Erupts

Protesters Reinforce Barricades As Ukraine Talks Break Downi
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January 24, 2014 7:27 PM
Talks between the Ukrainian president and the opposition aimed at ending days of violent anti-government protests appear to have broken down without agreement. The demonstrations erupted two months ago after President Yanukovich refused to sign an agreement bringing the country closer to the European Union - instead opting to sign deals with Russia. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Ukraine's President Vows Concessions to Anti-Government Protesters
Henry Ridgwell
Embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, facing massive anti-government protests in Kyiv and regional capitals, has agreed to re-shuffle his government and amend controversial new anti-protest laws.

The concessions were revealed Friday, but hours later TV footage showed huge fireballs lighting up the night sky in central Kyiv. Witnesses said angry protesters entrenched behind huge barricades threw firebombs and rocks at police, who responded with tear gas.

The fighting had stopped at midweek, with a truce called after at least three protesters battling police died - two of them by gunfire.  

Ongoing talks between the president and opposition leaders were expected to have stretched through the weekend, but it was not clear early Saturday what impact the new rioting would have on the talks.

One of the leaders - Vitaly Klitschko - described the meeting to the protesters gathered in Independence Square late Thursday night.

"Long hours of conversations, long hours of conversations about nothing.,” Klitschko told the protesters. “Now I understand that to sit down at the same table, with the man who has already decided to lie to you is pointless,” he said.

Arseniy Yatseniuk, another opposition leader, told protesters to defend their territory.

"The decision has been made,” he said. “We are announcing Hrushevskiy Street the territory of the protesters of Independence Square. Not a step back, I ask everyone."

The opposition is demanding that the government resign and snap presidential elections held.

Minister of Justice Olena Lukash criticized their actions.

"Unfortunately for the second time the leaders of the opposition have declined from publicly denouncing the extremists' actions. They also do not condemn the capture of local administration buildings," said Lukash.

Protesters are still occupying government buildings in several western cities in Ukraine after the protests spread beyond Kyiv Wednesday. The governor of Lviv was forced to sign a resignation letter. He says it was done under duress.

Opposition groups allege widespread police brutality - including the shooting dead of at least two protesters, and the torture of protesters in detention a charge security forces deny.

The accusations of police brutality have inflamed the protests against President Yanukovich, says Andy Gundar, director of the Ukrainian Institute in London.

“This is something that the people will not forgive him. And the line has been crossed. So I think it’s going to be a very, very difficult next few days," said Gundar.

The protesters are unlikely to back down, says Orysia Lutsevych of London-based policy institute Chatham House.

“Clearly the protesters went out with the demand of the resignation of the government back two months ago. So I think this demand will have to stay in place and be met if they want civil peace and calm, and people back home from the squares. The problem in Ukraine is also the legislation. That is, they have to change the electoral code before they run any elections," said Lutsevych.

Both the government and the protesters are refusing to give any ground. Fears are growing of more bloodshed in the coming days.

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by: PermReader
January 25, 2014 8:56 AM
Henry, the full impression from your post is that Kiev`s Maidan is the only citadel of the rebels.Show the proper map next time,please.

by: Joseph Effiong from: Calabar - Nigeria
January 25, 2014 6:20 AM
How can a sovereign state be allowed to be used by russia ? Is there any russian allied that is not tyrannic ? What happened in syria is soon to happen in Ukraine. Russian interest is so important to Ukrainian president than the well-being of his people.
In Response

by: Dan Ramsey
January 25, 2014 8:54 PM
This is the way that the KGB does business, and Vladimir Putin is KGB from his head to his toes. Even though they call it the FSB now, it's the same thing.

In addition to being a two-bit thug, Yanokovich is a stupid klutz who is nothing but Moscow's puppet. Ramming through that anti-protest law was incredibly dumb. It was like throwing gasoline on a fire. But no doubt that's what Putin told him to do. After all, Putin did the same thing following the protests in Russia against him in 2012.

Once KGB, always KGB.

I'm hoping and praying that perhaps one or two prominent Ukrainian generals will turn against Yanokovich and tell him that unless he agrees to new elections, he will no longer have the support of the armed forces and that, if so ordered, they will not fire on their own people.

by: Joseph Effiong from: Calabar - Nigeria
January 25, 2014 6:19 AM
How can a sovereign state be allowed to be used by russia ? Is there any russian allied that is not tyrannic ? What happened in syria is soon to happen in Ukraine. Russian interest is so important to Ukrainian president than the well-being of his people.

by: Voilemere from: France
January 24, 2014 4:36 PM
hey Vasily, excellent report, thank you. I do believe that the Ukrainian revolution will set the tone for the much needed structural reforms in Russia. Putin presides over Russia like an Arab malignancy and its time to go... i think he can sense that too. Him and Assad and the stench of the Iranian Mullahs... all must go.

by: Lisa from: USA
January 24, 2014 3:30 PM
Vasily, everyone is looking forward to your reports. your courage and our silence is putting US to shame... believe me Vasily, our hearts are with you. and don't answer questions that may jeopardize you...

by: Den from: Ukraine
January 24, 2014 3:03 PM
Help us please! We will be very difficult to overcome Yanukovych!
In Response

by: Dan Ramsey
January 25, 2014 9:02 PM
There is a lot that the west can do to help the reform movement in Ukraine.

To start with, Barack Obama and other western leaders can be much more vocal in their support of the reform movement than they have been to date.

Also, the west can provide clandestine funding to the reform movement, which I suspect that we are already doing behind the scenes.

If Yanukovich tries to use the army to crush the protests, the west can freeze the millions of dollars in stolen money that he and his cronies keep in western banks.

But most importantly, the west can make it known to both Yanukovich and Vladimir Putin that if Russia tries to intervene militarily to prop up Yanokovich, the consequences will be severe. Russia will be drummed out of the G8 and the WTO, foreign capital will be withdrawn, new capital flows into the country will be shut off, and they will all have their assets now held in western banks frozen indefinitely.

Also, moving a couple of US aircraft carrier battle groups into the Black Sea would also underscore the point that an armed intervention by Russia could have other severe consequences as well.
In Response

by: Penny Breton from: USA
January 24, 2014 4:39 PM
how shall we help you? remember that Ukraine stopped issuing visas... what can we do to help you?

by: Vasily from: Ukraine
January 24, 2014 12:55 PM
to our American friends - greetings.
as I told you, i will continue to update you of the evolving events. the first thing you must understand is that we have no leaders here. you will do yourselves a grave disservice if you think that by interviewing a giant boxing imbecile who is viewed by so many here with derision, that he knows anything of events - he does not. The real leaders are beginning to emerge slowly. The fear that we have here is that violent Neo-Nazi groups who started coalescing in response of Muslim incursion into Ukraine, are gaining power and acceptance and influence... and that is no good for anyone.

Some people among us think that we will be able to control these idiots when we have achieved our goal of separate liberal democracy... but many doubt it. and yet another sign of concern is the sudden influx of weapons in the streets... nobody knows with certainty where they are coming from or who is supplying them - they are coming from the East - so it could be the Russians who supply them... if you think that this is improbable than you are imperfectly acquainted with the state of Russia's decay... it is advanced!! - well, its very cold here... we are doing our best
In Response

by: Joseph Effiong from: Calabar - Nigeria
January 25, 2014 6:30 AM
Since soviets is abandoned toilet, russia is looking for a way to destroyed Ukraine.
In Response

by: Joseph Effiong from: Calabar - Nigeria
January 25, 2014 6:28 AM
Since soviets is abandoned toilet, russia is looking for a way to destroyed Ukraine.
In Response

by: cg 13 from: Germany
January 24, 2014 2:37 PM
hey Vasily, thank you, I see Klitschko being paraded here on the news... he looks and sounds like an imbecile... and definitely no leader... he will be lucky if he doesn't get himself killed soon...

Vasily, you mentioned weapons streaming into the streets... why would Russians supply weapons to Ukrainian separatist movement..? do you think Putin is setting up an incident...?? you obviously are in need of financing, who is financing you..??

Vasily, the neonazi groups - are they just against Muslims..? we have them here neonazis protecting the communities against Muslims filth... how big are they in Ukraine...?? are they armed..?? Vasily, be safe, i fear the future... but i see the reaction against the Muslims in Europe is gaining strength... and that can only be good.

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