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Europe

Ukraine’s president agrees to talks with opposition

© AFP

Video by Gulliver CRAGG

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-09

Faced with ongoing mass protests against his decision to abandon a deal with the EU in favour of possible closer ties with Russia, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich backed on Monday holding talks with the opposition to discuss a compromise.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich agreed to talks with the opposition on Monday as he faces ongoing mass protests against his decision to abandon a deal the European Union in favour of possible closer ties with Russia.

Police dismantle barricades in Kiev

Ukrainian riot police have begun to dismantle barricades erected by anti-government protesters in a southern part of the capital Kiev, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko tweeted on Monday.

Separately, the Interfax news agency reported that police had also started removing barricades near government headquarters in another part of the city.

Ukraine’s general prosecutor said in a statement on his website that protesters should leave public buildings and take down barricades, warning that those who failed to do so would be punished. The protesters have been occupying several public buildings including Kiev City Hall for more than one week.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

The idea to hold an “all-national round-table” was proposed by the country’s first post-Soviet president Leonid Kravchuk. A statement published on Yanukovich’s official website said that he fully supported the initiative.

“In his opinion, such a round-table can become a platform for mutual understanding,” the website said.

Vitaly Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion turned politician and opposition leader, said that he and other opposition leaders were ready to meet with embattled Yanukovich to discuss a possible compromise.

“I am sure that the current government must resign ... We have announced our demands more than once and in relation to this we are ready to talk with Yanukovich because no one else is making decisions,” Klitschko told the Reuters news agency.

Hundreds of thousands protest

Yanukovich’s support for talks with the opposition comes one day after several hundred thousand people gathered in the capital Kiev’s Independence Square calling for the resignation of his government and early elections.

The rally, which ended with protestors toppling a granite statue to Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, followed talks on Friday between Yanukovich and Russian President Vladimir Putin. These raised opposition suspicions that Yanukovich might be readying to take Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union.

As Yanukovich’s statement on his website appeared, riot police took up position in streets near Independence Square, where about a thousand protesters were still camped out, and near Kiev’s city hall, which is occupied by demonstrators.

After a court order was issued for the protesters to quit the building, police told those inside last week that they had four days to leave or be ejected.

The political turmoil is deepening Ukraine’s economic crisis, with short-term interest rates jumping to one-year highs on Monday. Foreign currency reserves, which have fallen steadily as the central bank tries to prop up the hryvnia currency, also slid further last month.

The central bank reported on Friday that the reserves fell at the end of November to $18.791 billion from $20.632 billion a month earlier.

One-week, one-month and three-month Ukrainian money market rates soared to their highest in a year. One-week rates rose to 16 percent, according to Reuters data, up from 7 percent on Friday, and 3.5 percent a week ago.

However, the hryvnia currency hit six-week highs in the spot market on Monday. “The central bank has been intervening but it is becoming more aggressive now,” said Ishitaa Sharma, emerging markets strategist at Citi.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-12-09

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