Ashton to meet Ukraine leader in fresh push to resolve crisis
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Last Updated: Wednesday, February 05, 2014, 13:39
Kiev: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was set on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych amid opposition accusations the embattled leader was dragging his feet over proposals to resolve a crisis.

In a fresh bid to try to overcome the two-month stalemate between the government and the opposition, parliament was to debate constitutional amendments to curb presidential powers. In a major concession to the protest movement, Yanukovych is also considering calling an early election to resolve the ex-Soviet country's worst political crisis since it gained independence in 1991, according to a senior lawmaker.

But the opposition accuses the Ukrainian leader, who faces an election in 2015, of seeking to win time rather than put an end to a turmoil that left several people dead and turned parts of the capital Kiev into a battle zone.

After meeting Yanukovych for another round of talks, boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko said the president told him that constitutional reform could take up to six months.

"I told him we don't have time," the 42-year-old pugilist said, noting that the president did not appear to be willing to solve the crisis.

"This is an irresponsible position for a state leader."

Ashton dined with opposition leaders after arriving in Kiev yesterday.

"The European Union's high representative Lady Ashton assured us that Europe is ready to delegate high-level mediators for negotiations with the authorities," said Klitschko.

Ukraine's protests erupted in November after the 63-year-old leader rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow, and the turmoil has now become an all-out movement to oust him.

The pro-EU protest leaders are demanding constitutional amendments that would cut presidential powers and unconditional freedom for arrested activists.

But Yanukovych's ruling party has insisted this can only happen if occupied government buildings are vacated.

The president has already scrapped controversial anti-protest laws and dismissed the prime minister and the entire cabinet but protestors on the streets are demanding a wholesale "reset" of power.

US Vice President Joe Biden urged Yanukovych yesterday to pursue dialogue and compromise as he called for the "immediate" pulling back of riot police.


First Published: Wednesday, February 05, 2014, 13:39

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