Rebuking Compromise, Anti-Government Protesters Storm Govt Buildings
Ukranian opposition demands repeal of draconian anti-protest laws
Rebuking an attempt Saturday by Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovich to quell anti-government protesters by offering to share leadership, opposition leaders say they will be the ones making the demands.
Demonstrators seized a number of government buildings over the weekend, as protests have grown increasingly violent following the deaths earlier this week of at least two protesters after Kiev police advanced on the crowd with smoke, tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and water cannons.
Two months after the protests began over Yanukovych's decision to back out of a European Union pact, the president offered on Saturday to share leadership with opposition figures Arseniy Yatsenyuk as prime minister and Vitali Klitschko as deputy prime minister in a dramatic compromise bid.
Opposition leaders said they would continue negotiations until other demands are met, in particular that presidential elections due in 2015 be brought forward to this year.
The president also offered to author an amnesty bill for arrested protesters and to re-consider draconian anti-protest laws which went into affect Wednesday.
Mobile phone users in the vicinity of protests earlier this week received a "big brother text" reading, "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass riot"—which many said echoed the language used in the anti-protest laws.
"We are not refusing the offer but we are not accepting it either," Yatsenyuk later told reporters before writing on his Facebook page that the opposition should be the one dictating terms, not the other way around.
Yanukovich called for a special session of parliament Tuesday and said it could discuss repealing those laws, Al Jazeera reports.
"Tuesday is judgment day," Yatsenyuk told a crowd of tens of thousands of protesters in Independence Square Saturday. "We do not believe any single word. We believe only actions and results."
Following an overnight siege during which the opposition fended off security forces, protesters took control of Ukrainian House—a Stalin-era exhibition hall near the protest zone—which they are now using as a "press center" and an additional place to feed and warm protesters.
Al Jazeera continues:
Over the past five days, police have arrested dozens of injured protesters being treated at hospitals, said Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from Kiev. When asked about why patients are being removed from hospitals, neither doctors nor police officers would comment.
In response, opposition leaders have started to urge police to resign. In at least one police station, officers gave up their posts to join protesters.
Protesters seized another building Friday amid a shaky truce. An attempt by police to storm the demonstration headquarters would likely set off new clashes.
Protesters on Saturday morning seized the headquarters of the energy ministry, but left it several hours later. Energy Minister Eduard Stavitskiy was quoted by the Unian news agency as saying that all the country's nuclear power facilities were put on high alert after the seizure.
In Vinnitsya, about 110 miles southwest of Kiev, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the local administration building, Ukrainian news agencies said. Until the past week, the protests had been centered in Kiev with only smaller demonstrations elsewhere, but since the Kiev clashes began Sunday, a score of local government buildings have been seized in the country's west, where support for Yanukovich is thin.