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Kiev protesters expand street barricades

Ukrainian opposition calls on demonstrators to build defences after talks with president break down without agreement.

Last updated: 24 Jan 2014 11:38
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Ukrainian protesters have erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building, fuelling tension after the failure of crisis talks with the president, Viktor Yanukovich.

In response to opposition calls, about 1,000 demonstrators moved away from Kiev's Independence Square in the early hours of Friday and began to erect new barricades closer to the presidential headquarters.

Masked protesters, some carrying riot police shields seized as trophies, stood guard as others piled up sandbags packed with frozen snow to form new ramparts across the road leading down into the square.

Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba reports from Kiev.

After leaving a second round of talks with Yanukovich empty handed late on Thursday, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko voiced fears the impasse could now lead to further bloodshed.

After speaking first to protesters manning the barricades, Klitschko then went to Independence Square where he declared: "Hours of conversation were spent about nothing. There is no sense sitting at a negotiating table with someone who has already decided to deceive you."

Klitschko had earlier brokered a truce in the violence between protesters and police, and the ceasefire appears to be holding so far.

A group of protesters took control of the main agricultural ministry building in the centre. "We need the place for our people to warm up," a local protest leader was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Meanwhile, protesters near Dynamo Kiev football stadium, the new flashpoint in the city, cranked up their action, setting tyres ablaze again and sending a pall of black smoke over the area. 

There were no signs that protesters were heeding an appeal from general prosecutor Viktor Pshonka who said early on Friday that those so far arrested would be treated leniently by the courts if protest action was halted.

At least three protesters have been killed so far after clashes between protesters and riot police.

East-West tensions

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in the capital after Yanukovich backed away from signing a free trade deal with the EU, which many people saw as the key to a European future, in favour of financial aid from Ukraine's old Soviet master Russia.

But the movement has since widened into broader protests against perceived misrule and corruption in the Yanukovich leadership.

Protesters have been enraged too by sweeping anti-protest legislation that was rammed through parliament last week by Yanukovich loyalists in the assembly.

Earlier on Thursday, Yanukovich had suggested he might be prepared to make concessions to the opposition when he called for a special session of parliament next week to consider the opposition demands and find a way out of the crisis. But this did not impress opposition leaders.

Underlining the level of mistrust between the government and opposition, the prime minister Mykola Azarov on Thursday accused protesters of trying to stage a coup and dismissed the possibility of an early presidential election.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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