News / Europe

Ukraine Ruling Party Demands Cabinet Reshuffle

Kyiv's Two Tent Camps Reflect Ukraine East-West Dividei
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December 16, 2013 7:21 PM
One kilometer separates Kyiv's rival tent cities, the sprawling improvised camp of pro-Europe demonstrators on Independence Square, and the compact army-style camp of supporters of President Viktor Yanukovych on Constitution Square. VOA's Jim Brooke reports.

Related video by VOA's James Brooke

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Ukraine's ruling party has demanded a sweeping Cabinet reorganization in a sign the leadership is seeking to placate protesters opposed to an economic pact with Russia.

Lawmakers with President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions met Monday with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to ask for a "90 percent reshuffle" of his government.

Earlier in a bid to ease tensions, Yanukovych offered a number of concessions, including firing senior officials over police violence against protesters.  But the pro-EU opposition has dismissed the moves as half-measures, and leaders are demanding  Azarov's resignation as well as early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a major loan deal would be agreed to Tuesday in talks with Yanukovych in Moscow, and a Ukrainian minister said a deal to lower prices for Russian gas is likely.

  • Portraits of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov are seen at a barricade during a rally in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
  • A woman passes by Interior Ministry personnel as they block pro-EU demonstrators near the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
  • Ukrainian pro-EU demonstrators warm themselves by a fire during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
  • A pile of garbage bags left by pro-European integration protesters lies in front of riot police officers in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 20, 2013.
  • A Pro-European Union activist guards an entrance to the tent camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 19, 2013.
  • A man reads a newspaper with a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the front page during a pro-European Union rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 19, 2013.
  • Pro-European Union activists warm themselves sitting in their shelter inside a barricade during a rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Dec. 18, 2013.
  • Pro-European Union activists pass through a police line as they march against the government in Kyiv, Dec. 17, 2013.
  • A pro-European Union activist stands while warming himself near a bonfire at a heavily fortified tent camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 17, 2013.
  • A man stacks wooden bars showing names of Ukrainian cities and settlements that are hometowns of demonstrators, during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 16, 2013.
  • Pro-European integration protesters eat free meals near a barricade during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 16, 2013.
  • Pro-European Union activists rally in Independence Square, Kyiv, Dec. 15, 2013. 

Ukraine is facing its biggest political crisis in a decade after Yanukovych failed to sign a long planned political and trade deal with the European Union last month.  He said significant trade pressure from Russia meant he must first fix relations with his eastern neighbor.

Russia has strongly opposed the EU deal, which would have anchored Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, in the West.  But Yanukovych's decision has sparked mass demonstrations in Ukraine from pro-European protesters.

The protest movement, now in its fourth week, is planning to continue while  Yanukovych is in Moscow.

The Ukrainian government, which has sought up to $20 billion in foreign assistance to prop up its struggling economy, has assured the demonstrators that eventually it planned to sign an association agreement with the European Union.

But the bloc abruptly suspended talks Sunday, saying Ukraine's leadership was being disingenuous.  EU foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels reiterated their willingness to strike a deal, but said the next move is up to Kyiv.

A poll by Ukraine's non-governmental Research and Branding group released earlier this month shows 46 percent of Ukrainians favoring the EU trade pact.  Thirty-six percent were shown favoring a rival trade bloc of former Soviet republics and satellite countries that is being pushed by Moscow.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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