New crisis talks as Ukraine vows no state of emergency yet
Kiev: President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday held a new round of talks with the opposition aimed at ending Ukraine`s deadly crisis as the government vowed it had no plan to call a state of emergency.
The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday was due to meet to discuss concessions proposed by Yanukovych, in a highly anticipated extraordinary session that could be a make-or-break moment.
Radical protesters agreed to leave the premises of the justice ministry building they had stormed on Sunday evening in a provocative move that had threatened to derail attempts to find a solution.
With concern growing in the West that the situation in Ukraine was spiralling out of control, the country`s worst crisis since independence was set to dominate an EU-Russia summit on Tuesday.
After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was to travel to Kiev on Tuesday for talks, she announced.
The protests, which began in November as a drive for EU integration after Yanukovych ditched a key deal with the bloc under Russian pressure, have now turned into an all-out uprising to unseat him. At least three protesters have been killed in clashes with the security forces.
Under unprecedented pressure, Yanukovych on Saturday offered the opposition posts in government, including that of prime minister, and to impose changes in the constitution that would reduce the powers of the presidency.
The opposition has given a guarded response to the proposals, saying they fall well short of its chief demand for early elections.
But in a sign the negotiating process could be bearing some fruit, Yanukovych was Monday holding a new meeting with all three main opposition leaders, the presidency said.
No further details were available on the talks with Fatherland party chief Arseniy Yatsenyuk, UDAR (Punch) chief, world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, and nationalist leader Oleg Tyagnybok.
Taking a more radical line than many in the opposition, the jailed leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, urged them to reject the "humiliating terms" set by the presidency.
Amid a febrile atmosphere in Kiev, the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia news website reported the cabinet was preparing a decree for a state of emergency which would restrict movement on some Kiev streets.
But Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara told reporters Monday: "Today we are not considering the introduction of a state of emergency. Today, this measure is not on the table."
Dzerkalo Tyzhnia also reported that the government was planning to massively expand the Berkut riot police force blamed for much of the violence in Kiev by six times to 30,000 people.Tensions remained high in Kiev after several dozen radical protesters seized control of the justice ministry late Sunday.
Justice Minister Olena Lukash had threatened to recommend imposing a state of emergency if the building was not vacated.
After occupying the premises for over 12 hours, the activists walked out of the building but dozens dressed in battle fatigues still blocked the front entrance.
Protesters now control much of the city centre of Kiev around a hub on Independence Square, with their camp protected by barricades several metres high and guarded by activists dressed in balaclavas and armed with baseball bats.
But the rebellion has now spread well beyond Kiev, with protesters occupying regional administrations in all but one region in the west of the country which has traditionally been anti-Yanukovych.
But most worryingly for the president, protests have swept to the country`s east and centre, usually considered more his heartland.
Protesters have now occupied or are blockading 10 of the 25 regional administrations across Ukraine.
However the security forces appear to have been fighting back in the east, using force to disperse protests in the regional centres of Dnipropetrovsk, Cherkasy and Sumy and arresting dozens, local media reported. The parliament session coincides with an EU-Russia summit in Brussels where Putin will be hosted by European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.
The meeting -- already shortened to less than three hours -- is expected to be shadowed by tensions over Ukraine, with Moscow slamming protesters as extremists but the West worried about police violence.
The European Union`s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fuele, returned to Ukraine on Monday for more talks just three days after his last meeting with Yanukovych, the commission said.
Ashton will arrive in Kiev on Tuesday and spend Wednesday in the Ukrainian capital.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Monday pressed Yanukovych to start a "constructive dialogue" with the opposition, the United Nations said.
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