Ukraine opposition leader offered PM post

Opposition rejects Yanukovich's powersharing deal and calls for presidential elections this year.

Last updated: 26 Jan 2014 07:01
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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has offered opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the post of prime minister in a bid to end the country's raging political crisis, the presidency has said.

In talks with the opposition, Yatsenyuk, a former foreign minister, was offered the post of government chief in place of current Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the presidency said in a statement on Saturday.

The president is convinced that joint work together with the opposition will help the state unite and carry out the necessary reforms for state and society

Justice Minister Olena Lukash,

"If he (Yatsenyuk) agrees to take the post of prime minister then a decision will be taken for the government to resign," Justice Minister Olena Lukash said in the statement.

The president also promised to consider changes to the Ukrainian constitution either through a referendum or through legislation.

"The president is convinced that joint work together with the opposition will help the state unite and carry out the necessary reforms for state and society," she added.

The offer, which also includes a deputy-prime minister post for Vitaly Klitschko, another top opposition leader, appeared to be a substantial concession by Yanukovich to protesters.

Following the meeting with Yanukovich, Yatsenyuk said the opposition was ready to lead the country and take it into the European Union.

Yatsenyuk also said the opposition wanted former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who was jailed in 2011 to be freed.

"Are we afraid of responsibility? No, we are not afraid of responsibility for the future of the country. We accept this responsibility and we are ready to lead our country into European Union. And this means the release of Yulia Tymoshenko. And this means Ukraine as a part of Europe."

The anti-government protesters have been camping in the capital, Kiev, for the past two months against Yanukovich's decision to ditch a long-awaited trade pact with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Klitschko said he wanted presidential elections this year and said the opposition would not yield in its demands.

"Our demand is the holding of presidential elections this year... We will not yield but talks will continue," he told protesters.

Overnight, police also clashed with protesters surrounding the International Convention Center in Kiev. 

Anti-protest laws

Protests grew after police violently dispersed two rallies, then anger boiled over into violence a week ago over harsh new anti-protest laws that Yanukovich pushed through parliament.

Protesters have seized government buildings in scores of other cities in the European-leaning western part of the country.

 The opposition has demanded that Yanukovich himself step down and call early elections.

Ukraine leader's offer fails to end protests

It came hours after the head of the country's police, widely despised by the opposition, claimed protesters had seized and tortured two policemen before releasing them.

The opposition denied any such seizure and claimed Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko was making a bogus claim in order to justify a police sweep against protesters.

At least six protesters have died and dozens have been injured in the past week's clashes.

Protesters have rained stones and firebombs on police while officers retaliate with stun grenades and tear gas. On Saturday evening, flames leapt high from barricade of burning tires, but there was no obvious violence in Kiev's central Independence Square, known as the Maidan.

Demonstrators milled about, many of them bearing clubs, metal rods and large sticks.

The latest decision comes a day after President Yanukovich offered concessions to protesters, including changes in government ministers and amendments to the anti-protest laws passed through parliament last week.


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