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Kyiv violence to continue

Roman Goncharenko / ngJanuary 24, 2014

The situation in the Ukrainian capital is set to escalate. After a brief reprieve, barricades are burning once again. Earlier, talks between the government and the opposition have failed.

Ukraine Proteste in Kiew 24.01.2014
Image: Reuters

After a day of calm in Kyiv, car tires are on fire again in Hrushevskoho Road, near where the government is based. There have been clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces for days. Overnight into Friday, protesters set fire to the tires on top of the barricades - as a shield against possible attacks on them by police.

Unlike the past few days, protesters did not throw Molotov cocktails, and police held back.

Opposition leaders had urged the protesters to suspend the violence during talks with President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday night (23.01.2014).

Talks fail

By the time the three opposition leaders got to Kyiv's Independence Square - known as Maidan - after nearly five hours of talks with Yanukovych, it was midnight.

Tens of thousands of protesters had braved sub-zero temperatures to wait for them.

But Vitali Klitschko from the pro-Western UDAR party, Oleg Tiagnibok from the Nationalist Party and former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had little to report.

Ukraine Kiew Gespräch Präsident mit Opposition
Talks did not yield any resultsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

President Yanukovych was not prepared to yield to the opposition's key demands, they said.

"The president stepping down to make way for fresh elections? No, he won't," Klitschko told the protesters. He could not hide his disappointment.

Klitschko booed

"The president is merely prepared to release all the demonstrators who have been detained, if there is no further violence," Klitschko said. Around 30 activists have been arrested in Kyiv in the last few days. They could spend years in prison.

On Wednesday, opposition leaders had presented the government with an ultimatum and threatened to march on government offices, which have been cordoned off.

The march has been called off for now, as Klitschko said he feared "for people's lives."

He reiterated his call for a nationwide strike, saying protests should gradually expand.

"We can't win straight away," the former boxing champion said, asking for people to be patient.

But his speech was interrupted by people booing and chanting "shame."

No further talks

The majority of protesters gathered on the Maidan have voted against further talks with Yanukovych.

"You can't sit at the same table with someone who is determined to trick you anyway," Klitschko said.

The demonstrators said they would erect more barricades in the city center and were pleased to hear that the protests had spread to other cities in Ukraine..

Ukraine Proteste in Kiew 24.01.2014
Klitschko has asked for patienceImage: Reuters

There are reports from the west and the center of Ukraine of anti-government protesters occupying several local government buildings.

Violence set to escalate

The government says it was also disappointed with the talks.

Justice Minister Olena Lukash said it was regrettable that the demonstrators refused to renounce violence, but said talks would continue.

Yanukovych has called an extraordinary meeting for parliament to discuss the crisis next Tuesday (28.01.2014). The opposition is likely to boycott the meeting.

The violence in Kyiv is expected to escalate in the coming days.

The interior ministry has indirectly threatened to clear the barricades in the city center, unless demonstrators to leave Hrushevskoho Road. But observers believe this is unlikely. They say international mediation is the only way to stop the violence spinning out of control.