Ukraine’s president offers concessions

Yanukovich vows to reshuffle government and amend security laws, reports say, as protests against his rule continue.

The Ukrainian president has promised a government reshuffle, an amnesty for dozens of detained activists and to change tough anti-protest legislation, according to local news agencies.

Viktor Yanukovich pledged at a meeting with religious leaders on Friday that a special parliament meeting next Tuesday would push through the changes, the reports said.

The dismissal of the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has been one of the main demands of the opposition during two months of unrest.

Protesters braced themselves for more clashes with the police earlier on Friday as they erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building in Kiev.

Hundreds of thousands first took 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.

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

Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions confirmed reports that two months of anti-government protests were spreading to other parts of the country, particularly the west, where it said “extremists” had seized regional administration buildings.

Only way out

Vitaly Klitschko, opposition leader, said the only way out of the impasse lay with international mediation.

“Any discussion of how to settle the crisis in Ukraine must take place with the involvement of the international mediators of the highest level,” a statement from his Udar party quoted him as saying.

“Instead of shifting to solving the situation by common sense, Yanukovich has declared war on his own people,” Klitschko said.

Ukraine’s riot police accused of brutality

“He is trying to hold on to power at the price of blood and destabilisation of the situation in the country. He has to be stopped.”

International pressure on Yanokovich’s government is mounting, with Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, on Friday condemning it for giving orders to open fire on demonstrators.

“I instructed the Quai d’Orsay [Foreign Ministry] to summon the Ukrainian ambassador in France today, which is a gesture to show that there is condemnation on France’s part,” said Fabius.

“There were orders to fire on the crowd, which is clearly unacceptable.”

Martin Schaefer, spokesman of Germany’s Foreign Ministry, said Germany wanted to show by summoning the Ukrainian ambassador that it was “serious” with its criticism.

“We hope and assume that the government and the opposition have recognised that violence is senseless and that any new escalation with more casualties will not bring about anything good for Ukraine,” he said.

So far the EU’s 28 members have not been able to agree on whether to threaten Ukraine with sanctions, as the United States has done.

But Schaefer said Germany was not “excluding the possibility that the time will come when the question of sanctions will come up”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies