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Ukraine protesters besiege ministry building

President's offer of concessions goes unheard as rallies grow over policy towards Russia and new anti-protest law.

Last updated: 25 Jan 2014 14:23
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Anti-government protesters have pushed forward with demonstrations in Ukraine, with reports of the main energy ministry building in central Kiev being besieged and more barricades being erected in the streets. 

According to Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky, about 100 protesers attempted to seize control of his ministry. "I went to them and said that if they did not peacefully leave the building then the whole energy system of Ukraine could collapse," said Stavytsky.

Ukraine leader's offer fails to end protests

He said protesters had left the building but he had been told they were blocking entry to the building outside.

A regional administration building in Vinnitsya, about 180km southwest of Kiev was also seized by the protesters, news reports said.

 

Meanwhile, officials have warned that the police could storm the Kiev city hall - occupied by protesters for nearly two months - to free two policemen allegedly captured by demonstrators.

 

Protesters deny they are holding the officers.

Reporting from Kiev, Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer noted that the central government "has not just been losing ground, it has been losing people. A good part of the presidential press service has resigned".

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

"What the president has suggested is a cabinet reshuffle, and the prime minister has called the Swiss president to mediate," said Spicer.

But renewed activity on the streets of the capital, and the spread of protests to the provinces, appear to confirm a popular rejection of his terms.

Set up barricades 

The protests, which began in November after Yanukovich backed away from signing a free-trade deal with the EU in favour of financial aid from Russia, are the biggest demonstrations since the 2004-5 Orange Revolution which denied Yanukovich his first bid at the presidency.

The demonstrations started peacefully in central Kiev two months ago, but have been broken up violently by police at times, and in the past week, protesters have set up barricades near Dynamo Kiev football stadium where they hurled Molotov cocktails and burnt tyres.

On Saturday, one more protester who was severely wounded in clashes with riot police died in a hospital, officials said.

Police have responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets, with half a dozen people said to have been killed in the fighting. The authorities have only confirmed a toll of three.

The protesters control key parts of the city centre, including its main Independence Square. On Friday, they occupied the main agricultural ministry building after talks stalled on Thursday night between the government and the opposition.

More than 100 people have been detained in the unrest, including 24 formally arrested, according to the police.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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