KIEV, Ukraine – Anti-government demonstrations spread out in other cities of Ukraine after talks between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovych stalled. A senior European Union official met with President Yanukovych on Friday, amid an uneasy political stalemate after days of clashes between police and protesters.
Protests were reported from the city of Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivtsi as well as Lutsk, in the north-west, and Sumy, in the east.
Meanwhile, Yanukovych vowed to use “all legal means” if a solution to the crisis is not found.
At a meeting with religious leaders, he also promised to amend anti-protests laws rushed through parliament last week and reshuffle the government at an urgent session of parliament due to begin on Tuesday.
And he said amnesty would be granted to those detained activists who had not committed “grave crimes”.
In the capital Kiev, new barricades were erected overnight as the main protest camp expanded.
The protests began two months ago after President Yanukovych turned away from closer ties with the European Union in favour of getting a bailout loan from Russia.
They turned violent this week after he pushed through harsh new anti-protest laws, rejecting protesters’ demands that he resign and call new elections, a demand echoed by opposition leaders.
Yanukovych’s presidential website reported his meeting with Commissioner for EU Enlargement Stefan Fule but gave no detail of what was discussed, said CNN.
In a Twitter post, the EU said foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and a European Parliament delegation are also planning to travel to Ukraine next week.
Freezing demonstrators in Kiev’s Independence Square – widely known as the Maidan – also occupied a government building as a truce with riot police continued.
Meanwhile, the parliament of the Crimean Autonomous Republic – seen as a staunch supporter of Yanukovych – urged the president to declare a state of emergency.
White House spokesman Jay Carney strongly condemned the fighting that has erupted in Kiev, urging all sides of the conflict to move towards a peaceful resolution.
Echoing an earlier statement by National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden, Carney blamed Ukraine’s government for the tensions and said that the fiery street battles were a direct result of the government failing to acknowledge the “legitimate” grievances of its people.
Carney urged Yanukovych to repeal the anti-democratic legislation.
The White House says Vice President Joe Biden called Yanukovych on Thursday and urged him to immediately de-escalate the standoff in Kiev. Biden said violence by any side is unacceptable but only Ukraine’s government can ensure an end to the crisis.
Germany and France are summoning Ukraine’s ambassadors over recent deadly clashes in Kiev
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Friday that he’s speaking to Swiss President Didier Burkhalter to assist in negotiations with the opposition, while opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged an international presence at talks that have so far failed to quell the protests.
As activists took over regional-government headquarters in six cities, European Union justice chief Viviane Reding warned of the risk of civil war, reports Bloomberg.
Four days of clashes left as many as five dead and 1,250 injured as laws to stem the protests took effect and police got special powers to quell the demonstrations. Opposition politicians have been frustrated in their demands for snap elections.
Azarov said Friday in Davos. “Switzerland is a neutral country that currently chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. OSCE help is very important in resolving of the conflict.”
“I don’t think we can have a solution in terms of negotiations, with or without the involvement of external parties or mediators,” Viktor Szabo, who helps oversee $10 billion in emerging-market assets, including Ukrainian debt, at Aberdeen Asset Management in London, said Friday by phone.
“Early elections aren’t an option for Yanukovych.”