Ukrainian opposition demands elections

Tens of thousands of protesters gather in Kiev calling for snap elections, as embattled president set to return to work.

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    Kiev - Ukranian opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko has called for immediate elections, saying that nothing short of the government's resignation will solve the political crisis, as the embattled president is set to resume office from Monday.

    The boxer-turned-politician made the comments on Sunday at a mass rally that was attended by tens of thousands of people in the capital, Kiev.

    "We should do everything do avoid radicalism and to solve the problem of the crisis without bloodshed. It can only happen if the government resigns. The urgent presidential elections is one of the solutions to the problem."

    Klitschko said the opposition was prepared to negotiate with the government, but only to a point, and wanted international help to avoid misunderstandings. He also appealed for external financial help.

    "We should by no means let the situation escalate in Ukraine and for now continue negotiations [with the government]. It is a key point that the result of those talks depends only on one person who concentrated the absolute power in his hands," he said.

    "It's the president of Ukraine, [Viktor] Yanukovich. And so that there is no fooling around, we're getting international mediators involved in the talks."

    Persistent protests

    The opposition has been courting Western politicians, with Klitschko meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich on Saturday, an alliance that angered Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who quickly accused the West of double standards.

    Bulatov told he can leave Ukraine

    Yanukovich has been on sick leave since Thursday. But his office announced on Sunday he would return to work on Monday after recovering from an "acute respiratory infection".

    The embattled leader has made some concessions, accepting the resignation of the cabinet and his prime minister, Mykola Azarov, and repealing controversial and unpopular anti-protest laws.

    But they have not been enough to placate the opposition or the thousands of people who have persisted with demonstrations and rallies since November.

    At times the protests have become violent, even fatal. The most high-profile incident involves the activist, Dmytro Bulatov, who disappeared for eight days.

    He was found on Thursday with his face badly beaten and with wounds to his hands, saying he had been tortured by kidnappers who spoke Russian.

    Two videos were released of his condition, the first showing him covered in blood with a long gash on his cheek, and the second showing him after a day in hospital, obviously dazed with a black eye, cut hands and the wound on his cheek beginning to heal.

    On Sunday it was announced he was free to leave Ukraine to seek medical treatment. 

    The country's political crisis began in November, when Yanukovich spurned a trade pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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