Ukrainian opposition leaders met for talks with President Viktor Yanukovich on Thursday as a fragile truce agreement held in Kiev, a day after at least three protesters died in clashes with police.
The opposition had billed the talks as a last chance for authorities to agree to concessions before protesters launch a fresh offensive. They are demanding that Yanukovich dismiss the government, call early elections and repeal legislation passed last week limiting acts of protest.
After four hours of talks with Yanukovych, the leader of the opposition Fatherland party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said there was a "high" chance of finding a solution to end the bloodshed.
Yanukovich on Thursday called for an emergency session of parliament to end the political crisis, a sign that he might be ready to soften his hard-line stance and strike a compromise.
The parliamentary website said the special session would be held on Tuesday.
But speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov took a tougher stance, accusing protesters of trying to stage a coup d’état and dismissing the possibility of an early presidential election.
“All those who support this coup should say clearly, ‘Yes, we are for the overthrow of the legitimate authorities in Ukraine’, and not hide behind peaceful protesters,” Azarov said.
The talks with opposition leaders, including boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, come a day after the deaths of at least three demonstrators during clashes with police in Kiev.
Two of the victims died of gunshot wounds, while the third is believed to have plunged to his death from the top of the city’s Dynamo football stadium, which lies near the protests.
The deaths were the first protest-related fatalities since the unrest first erupted last November after Yanukovich backed out of a landmark trade treaty with the European Union.
Klitschko urged protesters to refrain from confronting the police on Thursday until after the talks end at 6pm (GMT).
Direct talks between Yanukovich and the opposition are the first concrete move towards negotiating an end to two months of civil discontent that have culminated in violent clashes between demonstrators and police over the past few days.
A statement Thursday from French President François Hollande condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the use of violence against "peaceful" demonstrations in Kiev.
“A great country like Ukraine, which seeks to take its rightful place on the European and international stage, must put an end to such acts,” Hollande said, calling on the authorities in Kiev to pursue dialogue and compromise with the protesters.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-23