Ukraine Riots Continue despite President's Offer to Opposition Leaders
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Increasingly violent riots continued to rock Ukraine’s capital Kiev in the early hours of Sunday, a day after president Viktor Yanukovych offered government positions to opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk and boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko.
A large crowd attacked a government conference hall where police were stationed. In a scene that has become all too familiar, protestors used firebombs and fireworks while police responded with tear gas.
The continued violence followed the latest concessions made by Yanukovich in a bid to appease anti-government protesters who have occupied parts of the capital Kiev for more than two months, AFP reported.
Yanukovich agreed Friday to a government shake-up and changes to new sweeping anti-protest legislation. On Saturday, the president offered the premiership to opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk and the post of deputy premier to Vitaly Klitschko. Yanukovich also promised to consider changes to the Ukrainian constitution – which currently gives the head of state huge powers – either through a referendum or through legislation.
Yanukovych's latest offer appeared to have been both a concession and an adroit strategy to put the opposition in a bind, according to AP. Accepting the offer could have tarred Yatsenyuk among protesters as a sell-out, but rejecting it would make him appear obdurate and unwilling to seek a way out of the crisis short of getting everything the opposition wants.
The announcement came after three protest leaders – Yatsenyuk, a former economy minister; Klitschko; and nationalist Oleh Tyahnibok – were in talks with Yanukovich on bringing an end to the unrest.
Opposition leaders seemed hesitant to take up the offer.
"We are not throwing out the proposal, but we are not accepting it, either. We are conducting serious consultations among three opposition forces," said Yatsenyuk at a press conference.
He added that a key demand would be the freeing of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who was jailed in 2011.
Yatsenyk told the crowds gathered at Independence Square late on Saturday that he was “ready to accept responsibility” for Ukraine but that the protesters should not back down.
"The people will determine the power in Ukraine,” he said. “We will not step down from our position."
Klitschko said the opposition was ready to continue with negotiations and repeated calls for early elections.
"Our demand is the holding of presidential elections this year... We will not yield, but talks will continue," he told protesters.
Tyahnibok also pledged to keep up the pressure on Yanukovich, urging Ukrainians to come out to the square to protest. "Our fight will continue," he said.
The rallies against Yanukovich erupted last November after he pulled out of a free trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer economic ties with Russia. They have since spiralled into protests against misrule and corruption.