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

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, television 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.

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



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

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.

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. That decision resulted in a multi-billion-dollar bailout from Moscow that analysts say staved off near-certain bankruptcy for the impoverished country.

Immediately after rejecting the EU deal, pro-European protesters angered by the turn toward Moscow took to the streets of Kyiv and have maintained a presence there ever since.

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