Yanukovich offers PM’s post to opposition

January 26, 2014 - 4:48:48 am

A protester prepares to throw a Molotov cocktail during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, yesterday. 

KIEV: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich yesterday offered the opposition the post of prime minister and to change the constitution, in a proposed compromise deal aiming to end the country’s worst post-independence crisis.

Yanukovich offered top opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko the posts of prime minister and deputy prime minister in a brand new government, the presidency said.

Opposition leaders, who have called for Yanukovich’s resignation, could not immediately be reached for a reaction and it was not clear if they would accept the deal. The Ukrainian presidency said in a statement after talks between Yanukovich and the opposition that the two sides had agreed the protests and the police presence in Kiev would be scaled down, raising hopes of a resolution of the crisis.

Yanukovich said he was willing to consider changes to the constitution that would reduce the presidency’s huge powers, the presidency said.

Fatherland party leader Yatsenyuk is a former foreign minister and speaker of parliament. UDAR (Punch) party leader and world boxing champion Klitschko would be his deputy in charge of humanitarian affairs.

“If he (Yatsenyuk) agrees to take the post of prime minister then a decision will be taken for the government to resign,” Justice Minister Olena Lukash said.

The president also promised to consider changes to draconian anti-protest laws passed by parliament on January 16 which sparked the latest crisis.

“We are ready to make changes to these laws and work together with our political opponents on finding a political consensus for a compromise on these laws,” the presidency statement said.

The president also agreed to a key demand of the opposition to agree to put a bill to parliament that would amnesty those arrested during the protests and political crisis.

But the condition is that the protest’s epicentre — Independence Square — and the offices seized by protesters were given back to the authorities.

The protests first erupted in response to Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a key deal with the European Union in November.

But they have snowballed into anti-government protests against Yanukovich’s four-year rule, which the opposition claims has been riddled with corruption and nepotism. Three people have been killed in the protests, according to officials, although the opposition puts the toll at six. The Ukrainian interior minister earlier warned that efforts to solve the crisis without using force were proving “futile” as the opposition accused Yanukovich of planning to impose a state of emergency.

The European Union urged concrete steps to end the crisis, which has raised fears of a prolonged civil conflict.

The authorities have also faced mounting pressure outside Kiev with protesters storming regional administration offices not just in the anti-Yanukovich west of the country but also north and east of Kiev.

Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko has bluntly warned that the use of force was a possibility.

“The events of the last days in the Ukrainian capital have shown that our attempts to solve the conflict peacefully, without recourse to a confrontation of force, remain futile,” he said.

Accusing the mainstream opposition of failing to control radicals, Zakharchenko said the authorities now had information that the protesters were “hoarding firearms” at their headquarters.

He later said that all protesters remaining on Independence Square and occupying official buildings in Kiev would be considered as “extremist groups” and the authorities would use force if need be.

In a sign of a possible split within the ruling Regions Party over how to deal with the crisis, Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov said that dialogue was the only way forward. AFP

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