In Kyiv, Ukrainian protesters advance on Yanukovych strongholds | News | DW | 18.02.2014
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In Kyiv, Ukrainian protesters advance on Yanukovych strongholds

Ukrainian protesters have broken police lines to advance on buildings controlled by the main governing party. Reports have emerged that three protesters have been killed.

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Fresh violence in Ukraine

Continuing the opposition's long fight, 20,000 people massed Tuesday outside parliament to push lawmakers to return Ukraine to its 2004 constitution, under which key powers would shift from President Viktor Yanukovych to legislators. In what the opposition had called a "peaceful offensive" to pressure lawmakers, the demonstrators marched from Kyiv's Independence Square, where protesters have maintained their headquarters over three months of uprising against Yanukovych's rule.

"We hope that the deputies from the majority will recognize what they have to do and allow a vote on constitutional change," Oleg Tyagnybok, leader of the nationalist party Svoboda (Freedom), told journalists Tuesday.

In November, Yanukovych had shelved an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of a loan and natural gas deal with Russia. That move prompted mass protests calling for his resignation in Ukraine. Additionally, members of the opposition have called for constitutional reform to curb the powers of the president.

'A way out'

Security forces have repeatedly resorted to brutal measures against protesters. As the response to demonstrations turned violent Tuesday, the opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged Yanukovych to call off his riot police, the Berkut, to prevent further conflict.

"I am appealing to the president," said Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion-turned-opposition leader. "Take the Berkut and Interior forces off the streets. Do this and it will provide a way out. It will be the decision of a real man."

Opposition lawmakers joined the protesters in the streets. Inside parliament, deputies from those parties blocked the speaker's dais after Volodymyr Rybak, the first deputy of President Yanukovych's Party of Regions, refused to put the reform initiatives on the daily agenda.

Better in Berlin

Monday's visit to Berlin by Klitschko and former Interior Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk aimed to garner support from Merkel's government for the opposition's efforts to curb Yanukovych's powers. The chancellor's spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had expressed "sympathy for the legitimate concerns of the Ukrainian people." He also said that she had reassured Klitschko and Yatsenyuk that Germany, in cooperation with the EU, would do everything it could to contribute to a positive outcome to the crisis.

Though Merkel said she supported the opposition's goals of pushing for constitutional reform and a new government, she said that she did not agree with Klitschko's calls for sanctions. Further financial support from the EU and possible penalties against the Ukrainian government were also discussed during the closed-door talks.

On Monday, the German Foreign Ministry had called recent developments in Kyiv "encouraging." Following protesters' ending their two-month occupation of city hall in the capital, the Ukrainian government announced that a long-sought amnesty for jailed protesters had officially gone into effect.

On Tuesday, as protesters forced their way into the headquarters of Yanukovych's party headquarters and looked set to begin a new occupation while the parliament failed to address reforms, "encouraging" appeared a less-likely modifier.

mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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