Kiev: Ukraine`s government survived a no-confidence vote on Tuesday after the prime minister apologised for a police crackdown on protests, while demonstrators massed outside parliament protesting the ex-Soviet state`s rejection of a historic EU pact.
"On behalf of our government, I would like to apologise for the actions of our law enforcement authorities" who, on the weekend, fired smoke bombs and stun grenades in clashes with demonstrators in the capital, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said.
Azarov also promised the emergency session of parliament that he would reshuffle his cabinet.
"I can guarantee lawmakers one thing -- I will draw firm conclusions from what happened and make serious personnel changes in the government," he told the chamber, speaking in Russian.
Following his mea culpa, the opposition`s no confidence motion against the government failed, gathering only 186 of the 226 votes required to pass in the parliament dominated by the ruling party.
Outside the building, some 5,000 protesters rallied, calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych amid a heavy presence of riot police.
Around 1,000 pro-Yunukovych supporters rallied nearby surrounded by police.
The co-confidence measure was seen as a way to channel the protesters` anger after a police crackdown on weekend demonstrations in which more than 100,000 people turned out in Kiev- the largest protest since the pro-democracy 2004 Orange Revolution.
There had been little prospect of the motion passing, however, because Yanukovych`s ruling Regions Party dominates the 450-seat parliament.
Although the violence had subsided today, there was no let-up in demonstrators` demands that Yanukovych resign over his failure to sign key political and free trade agreements with the EU at a summit in Vilnius on Friday.
Speaking in a television interview late yesterday, Yanukovych defended his decision to walk away from the deal.
"What kind of an agreement is that when they take and bend us over?" he asked.
He conceded that police "went too far" in the weekend clashes, but claimed that they "were provoked by something".
The EU had set the release of Yanukovych`s top rival Yulia Tymoshenko- who in 2011 was sentenced to seven years on abuse-of-power charges- as a key condition for signing the deal with Ukraine. She remains imprisoned.
Yanukovych was not in Ukraine for the no-confidence vote this afternoon, having left on a three-day trip to China.