Anti-government protesters regroup at Kiev’s Independence Square to rally against decision to scrap EU trade pact.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has slammed opposition calls for revolution as a “threat to national security”, saying it was time to turn what he called a “shameful page” in Ukraine’s history.
“Calls for a revolution pose a threat to national security,” Yanukovich told ex-leaders Leonid Kuchma, Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko on Tuesday in a bid to defuse an escalating standoff over a rejected EU pact.
“I want that this dark page is turned and is never allowed to happen again,” the embattled Yanukovich said.
In a nod to the opposition, he said he had asked the general prosecutor to secure the release of some of the demonstrators arrested after recent clashes with police.
He also implied the security forces bore some responsibility for clashes.”Working is going on to find the lawbreakers on both sides. There are guilty on both sides,” Yanukovich said.
But he made no sign of changing his policy nor any indication he would give in to opposition calls for the dismissal of his government or call early elections.
Yanukovich also vowed to renew talks with the European Union on concluding a much-awaited trade and political agreement, after his refusal to sign the deal last month prompted the biggest protests since 2004’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution, some drawing hundreds of thousands of people to Kiev’s streets.
“We want to achieve conditions which satisfy Ukraine, Ukrainian producers, the Ukrainian people…If we find understanding and if such compromises are reached, the signature will be put” on paper, said Yanukovich.
Two senior Western diplomats flew to Kiev on Tuesday to try to help reduce the tensions.
Dozens of pro-government activists picketed the office of the EU commission in Kiev for several hours before the arrival of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who met with Yanukovich.
US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met with top opposition leaders and was also slated to meet with Yanukovich.