A Pro-European integration protester look out of a burnt
police truck at the site of clashes with riot police in
Kiev. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili
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 with opposition leaders
including heavyweight boxer-turned-politician Vitaly
Klitschko, and anti-government demonstrators in the capital
agreed to a truce with police until 8pm (local time) pending
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
"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
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
Three people have been killed on the side of protesters - two
of them from gunshot wounds - and more than 150 police have
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
The turmoil has caused alarm abroad. A White House spokesman
warned of possible sanctions against Ukraine and said the
tensions were a direct result of the government failing to
acknowledge the "legitimate" grievances of its people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed anger over the
crackdown on protesters.
"We are greatly worried, and not only worried, but also
outraged at the way laws have been pushed through that call
these freedoms into question," she told a news conference.
But Merkel added it would be wrong for Europe to respond to
the violence with sanctions at this stage.
French President Francois Hollande called on Ukrainian
authorities to "rapidly seek dialogue".
A European Commission spokesman said Yanukovich had spoken to
President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday and assured him he
was ready to maintain political dialogue and saw no need to
impose a state of emergency in Ukraine.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged the presidents
of Russia and the United States to help broker negotiations,
and said Ukraine was facing a possible "catastrophe".
In what could constitute the first signs of a willingness to
compromise, Yanukovich told parliamentary speaker Volodymyr
Rybak that the "situation must be settled immediately".
Rybak said the proposed emergency session of parliament could
consider the opposition's call for Azarov's government to
Rybak added that "questions linked to laws passed by
parliament" could be discussed - apparently a reference to
sweeping anti-protest laws rammed through parliament last
week by Yanukovich loyalists.
Those laws served to boost mass demonstrations on the streets
of Kiev at the weekend, and the opposition is demanding they
The new round of talks between Yanukovich and Klitschko,
former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and far-right
nationalist Oleh Tyahnibok had been due to begin at 3 p.m.,
but were delayed at the last minute.
In an initial round of talks on Wednesday, Yanukovich refused
to make any real concessions to opposition leaders' demands
for the dismissal of his government and repeal of the