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Kyiv clashes continue

January 25, 2014

Street clashes have continued in much of western Ukraine and the capital Kyiv, even after a presidential offer of some concessions. The EU's Martin Schulz has hinted at sanctions against Yanukovych in a German newspaper.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, in what appeared to be an offer of concessions to the opposition amid violent protests against his rule, pledged on Friday to reshuffle the government next week and to amend sweeping anti-protest laws. (Photo via REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)
Image: Reuters

Protests spread in Ukraine

The area around Kyiv's Independence Square, or Maidan, remained tense on Friday night. Television footage showed protesters throwing rocks and projectiles at riot police, who responded with tear gas.

After two months of protests, and more intense battles between protesters and police this past week, President Viktor Yanukovych appeared on Friday to offer an olive branch of sorts. Yanukovych said parliament "will take a decision about reshuffling the government" in an extraordinary session on Tuesday. He also promised to consider amnesties for jailed protesters and revisions to tougher anti-protest laws passed last week.

"I will do everything to end this conflict," Yanukovych was quoted as saying. He was speaking after a meeting with EU Expansion Commissioner Stefan Füle.

Recently-retired boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who hung up his gloves last month to focus on Ukraine's politics, said that opposition protesters would not be satisfied with ministerial changes only. Klitschko told DW that "now the people want Yanukovych to step down," also calling the political system in Ukraine "totally corrupt."

Schulz 'can't rule out' sanctions

In Saturday's edition of the German mass-circulation Bild newspaper, the European Parliament's president, Martin Schulz, said economic sanctions against the Yanukovych government were increasingly possible unless a deal could be struck in Kyiv.

"Anyone who goes ahead with such brutal violence fritters away their last remnants of trust," Schulz said of Yanukovych in Bild. The Social Democrat went on to say that, without a deal between Ukraine's political factions, he "could not rule out the freezing of bank accounts and travel bans for Ukrainian leaders from the side of the EU."

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Secretary of State John Kerry said US diplomats were working with Yanukovych, pressuring him to forgo violence and promote democratic freedoms.

"We will stand with the people of Ukraine," Kerry said.

Ukraine's unrest first began as Yanukovych's government surprisingly shelved a planned Association Agreement with the EU and sided instead with closer ties to Moscow. Yanukovych's political party dominates largely Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine, while holding very little power in the west of the country. In several western states on Friday, including the key city of Lviv, bordering Poland, opposition groups seized control of several regional government buildings.

At least three people have been killed in Ukraine since the protests intensified on Sunday.

msh/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)