February 19

Ukrainian president, protest leaders call a truce

They agree to negotiations a day after 26 people are killed and 400 injured in the capital.

By Maria Danilova And Jim Heintz
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Ukrainian truck drivers burn tires as they block the highway leading to the border with Poland near the crossing point in Krakovets, Ukraine, Wednesday. The drivers set the blockade to support anti-government protest in the coutry’s capital Kiev and other cities.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Ukrainian protesters throw out and burn papers from prosecutor’s headquarters in Lviv, western Ukraine, early Wednesday.

The Associated Press

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines

Demonstrators, meanwhile, forced their way into the main post office on Kiev’s Independence Square, also known as the Maidan, after a nearby building they had previously occupied was burned down in fierce, fiery clashes late Tuesday with riot police. Thousands of activists armed with fire bombs and rocks had defended the square, a key symbol of the protests.

“The revolution has turned into a war with the authorities,” Vasyl Oleksenko, a retired geologist from central Ukraine, said Wednesday. “We must fight this bloody, criminal leadership. We must fight for our country, our Ukraine!”

Before the truce was announced the bad blood was running so high it has fueled fears the nation could be sliding toward a messy breakup. While most people in the country’s western regions resent Yanukovych, he enjoys strong support in the mostly Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, where many want strong ties with Russia.

Neither side had appeared willing to compromise, with the opposition insisting on Yanukovych’s resignation and an early election and the president apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Opposition lawmaker Oleh Lyashko warned that Yanukovych himself was in danger.

“Yanukovych, you will end like (Moammar) Gadhafi,” Lyashko told thousands of angry protesters. “Either you, a parasite, will stop killing people or this fate will await you. Remember this, dictator!”

Before the truce announcement, Yanukovych had blamed the protesters for the violence and said the opposition leaders had “crossed a line when they called people to arms.”

“I again call on the leaders of the opposition ... to draw a boundary between themselves and radical forces, which are provoking bloodshed and clashes with the security services,” the president said in a statement. “If they don’t want to leave – they should acknowledge that they are supporting radicals.”

He called for a day of mourning Thursday for the dead.

In Moscow, the Kremlin said it put the next disbursement of its bailout on hold amid uncertainty over Ukraine’s future and what it described as a “coup attempt.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters that he and his counterparts from Germany and Poland would meet both sides in Ukraine ahead of the EU meeting on possible sanctions. He said he hoped the two sides “will find a way for dialogue.”

Possible sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes, which could hit hard the powerful oligarchs who back Yanukovych.

Ordinary Ukrainians, meanwhile, are struggling amid a stagnating economy and soaring corruption. They have been especially angered to see that Yanukovych’s close friends and family have risen to top government posts and amassed fortunes since he came to power in 2010. Yanukovych’s dentist son, Oleksander, has become a financial and construction magnate worth $187 million, according to Forbes Ukraine.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would limit the president’s power – a key opposition demand. Parliament, dominated by his supporters, was stalling on taking up a constitutional reform to limit presidential powers.

Police responded by attacking the protest camp. Armed with water cannons, stun grenades and rubber bullets, police dismantled some barricades. But the protesters held their ground through the night, encircling the protest camp with new burning barricades of tires, furniture and debris.

On Wednesday morning, the center of Kiev was cordoned off by police, the subway was shut down and most shops on the main street were closed. But hundreds of Ukrainians still flocked to the opposition camp, some wearing balaclavas and armed with bats.

One group of young men and women poured petrol into plastic bottles, preparing fire bombs, while a volunteer walked by distributing ham sandwiches. Other activists were busy crushing the pavement into bags to fortify the barricades.

In the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where most residents yearn for stronger ties with the EU and have little sympathy for Yanukovych, protesters seized several government buildings, including the governor’s office, police stations and offices for prosecutors, security officials and the tax agency. They also broke into an Interior Ministry unit and set it on fire.

In another western city, Lutsk, protesters handcuffed the regional governor, a Yanukovych appointee, and tied him on a central square after he refused to resign. In the city of Khmelnitsky, three people were injured when protesters tried to storm a law enforcement office.

Ukraine’s ailing economy is a major factor in the crisis. On Monday, Russia said it was ready to resume providing the loans that Yanukovych’s government needs to keep the country afloat. This raised fears among the opposition that Yanukovych had made a deal with Moscow to stand firm against the protesters.

Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Svetlana Fedas in Lviv, Laura Mills and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and John-Thor Dahlburg and Juergen Baetz in Brussels contributed to this report.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Ukrainian protesters burn a car outside a Security Service headquarters in Lviv, western Ukraine, early Wednesday. The violence on Tuesday was the worst in nearly three months in a nation divided in loyalties between Russia and the West.

The Associated Press

  


Further Discussion

Here at OnlineSentinel.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)