Anti-government protesters have kicked special forces police and cadets out of a flashpoint building in Kiev as demonstrations continued and opposition leaders refused a compromise deal put forward by the president.
Protesters besieged police in the capital’s international convention centre on Sunday after the opposition leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, rejected President Viktor Yanukovich’s offer of the position of prime minister.
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Kiev, said protesters had claimed that the centre, known as “Ukraine House”, was being used to stage attacks. The police were later allowed to leave under negotiation, but protesters remained in the building on Sunday.
The Interior Ministry said that it had decided to “withdraw the reserve unit of security forces from the building” to avoid further confrontation.
Vitali Klitschko, another opposition leader, confirmed the building had been taken. “The task has been accomplished. The Ukranian House has been taken without bloodshed,” the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted him as saying.
The opposition called off a massive rally planned for Sunday, because of the funeral for a protester killed in clashes with police last week. The memorial service of Mikhail Zhiznevsky, 25, to took place at Kiev’s Independence Square.
Weeks of strife
|Protests spread beyond Kiev
Ukraine has experienced weeks of protests, which began when the president rejected an EU political co-operation deal in favour of one proposed br Russia. In response to demonstrations, the government later rammed through an anti-protest law which threatened years in prison for unauthorised demonstration.
Yanukovich’s earlier this week offered to dilute the law and give opposition leaders positions in the government – concessions that were ignored by protesters against his rule.
In a speech on Sunday, Yatsenyuk said: “It’s true, Viktor Yanukovich proposed the opposition to share responsibility and to head the government. To be honest we were not happy about the proposal.
“I am perfectly aware about what is going on in the country now. The country is on the verge of bankruptcy. They’ve robbed the country in the past three and a half years to the extent that the treasury is empty. The country has been driven by them into total chaos. And that’s why they want to escape responsibility and are waiting to hear from us.”
Hundreds of activists had already occupied city hall and the agricultural ministry, and blocked off the energy ministry building, in increasingly violent protests against Yanukovich’s rule.
On Sunday morning, barricades were still smoking from fires lit overnight, with many protesters vowing to continue their demonstrations until the president was gone.