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Ukraine protests spread as opposition snubs compromise

Kiev: The Ukrainian opposition on Sunday said a compromise deal offered by President Viktor Yanukovych was not enough to end the country's worst crisis since independence, as nationwide protests spread to the president's eastern heartland.

With Ukraine shaken by a week of violence between police and protesters, all three main opposition leaders attended the Kiev funeral of one of three activists shot dead in the unrest.

The protests began over two months ago over Yanukovych's rejection of a pact with the European Union under Russian pressure, but have now turned into an all-out bid to oust him from power.

Europe has urged dialogue between the two sides, a call echoed by Pope Francis who voiced hope in his weekly Angelus prayer on St Peter's Square that “the search for common good may prevail in the hearts of all”.

Under unprecedented pressure, Yanukovych on Saturday offered the opposition posts in government including that of prime minister, but his opponents said the offer fell short of their needs.

Yanukovych offered to share leadership with Fatherland party chief Arseniy Yatsenyuk as prime minister and UDAR (Punch) chief and world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko as deputy prime minister.

Opposition leaders have been careful, however, to neither accept nor explicitly reject Yanukovych's proposals. They have said talks will continue although it is not clear when.

Yanukovych's office has also said the president is willing to consider constitutional changes to reduce his power and return to a system according more authority to the prime minister.

The EU delegation in Ukraine on Monday “urged the government to uphold the promises and announcements made during negotiations with the opposition”.

A crucial day in the standoff is expected to be Tuesday when parliament will meet in an extraordinary session to debate key sticking points in the crisis, including possible changes to protest laws.

Yanukovych has notably failed to respond to the key opposition demand to bring forward presidential elections due in 2015 and has also shown no sign of releasing jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

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