Ukraine president hints at compromise, but PM slams protesters
KIEV: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich called for an emergency session of parliament to end political crisis and violent unrest, in a sign he might be ready to soften his hardline stance and strike a compromise.
Yanukovich was due to hold talks on Thursday with opposition leaders including heavyweight boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, and anti-government demonstrators in the capital agreed to a truce with police until 8 p.m. pending the outcome.
The parliamentary website said the special session would be held on Tuesday.
Underlining the level of mistrust between the government and opposition, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov accused protesters of trying to stage a coup d'etat, and dismissed the possibility of an early presidential election to resolve the standoff.
"All those who support this coup should say clearly, 'Yes, we are for the overthrow of the legitimate authorities in Ukraine', and not hide behind peaceful protesters," Azarov said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"A genuine attempt at a coup d'etat is being carried out," Russian news agency Interfax quoted him as saying.
Azarov told Reuters the government had no plans to introduce a state of emergency: "We don't see the need for tough and extreme measures at the moment … But don't put the government into an impasse," he said.
"People should not think that the government lacks available resources to put an end to this. It is our constitutional right and obligation to restore order in the country."
The protests against Yanukovich began in November, when he pulled out of signing a free trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer economic ties with former Soviet overlord Russia.
The unrest has swollen in recent weeks, and turned violent on Sunday when hard-core radicals broke away from the main protest area in the capital Kiev and clashed violently with riot police.
Three people have been killed on the side of protesters – two of them from gunshot wounds – and more than 150 police have been injured.
Outside the capital, thousands stormed the regional administration headquarters in Rivne in western Ukraine on Thursday, breaking down doors and demanding the release of people detained in the unrest there, UNIAN news agency reported.