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Opposition deadline looms in Kyiv

Barricades have continued to burn, separating protesters from security forces in Kyiv as an opposition-set deadline looms. Meanwhile, opposition leaders were to meet with President Viktor Yanukovych to end the turmoil.

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Ukraine opposition sets ultimatum

Tensions remained high Thursday as protesters and police in Kyiv were separated by a wall of thick smoke and barricades. Both sides have been observing a ceasefire as opposition leaders were due to meet with President Viktor Yanukovych.

Opposition leader and world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko told the protesters ahead of the meeting, "By 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) I will return to you and inform you of the result of the talks," the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted him as saying.

"Keep the barricades in place but (be) calm until the talks finish," he added.

Klitschko and other opposition leaders were to meet Yanukovych for a second round of talks in a bid to end the turmoil. Earlier the opposition threatened to go on the attack if the government failed to agree concessions.

The opposition has said that in order for a compromise to be reached the president must dismiss the government, call early elections and scrap harsh anti-protest legislation that was passed last week.

"The chances are not great, but they exist," Klitschko added.

Yanukovych's decision to forego entering a trade agreement with the EU in November sparked mass protests from citizens who feared the move signalled his wish to foster stronger trade ties with Russia instead.

The protests turned violent on Sunday when demonstrators, angered by the passage of repressive anti-protest laws, marched on official buildings. Police on Wednesday tore down barricades and protesters responded by hurling fire bombs and stones at them. Police retaliated with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets, killing three protesters.

They were the first fatalities in more than two months of protests and fuelled fears of more violence.

hc/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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