Viktor Yanukovych calls for special session of Ukrainian parliament and plans talks with opposition leaders
Agence France-Presse in Kiev
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych yesterday demanded an extraordinary session of parliament to ease the crisis in the country after five days of deadly clashes between protesters and security forces.
The three main opposition leaders were to hold crisis talks with Yanukovych, as world boxing champion and Udar party leader Vitali Klitschko brokered a truce in the violence between protesters and police.
Speaker Volodymyr Rybak said parliament would discuss the protesters' demands for the government's resignation and the annulment of a controversial anti-protest law at a session expected next week, the presidency said in a statement. But he did not mention early presidential elections, a key opposition demand.
"You know that recent mass riots have been accompanied by violence, bloodshed and arson. Today, the situation requires a quick resolution," Yanukovych told Rybak, according to the statement.
Yanukovych called for the extraordinary session a dramatic escalation in tensions in the capital.
Activists say five protesters have died in clashes in recent days, marking a new peak in tensions after two months of protests over the government's failure to sign a deal for closer integration with the European Union.
The fighting raged into Wednesday night at the epicentre of the clashes on Grushevsky Street in central Kiev, with demonstrators hurling petrol bombs and security forces using stun grenades.
However, yesterday morning, Klitschko visited the barricades and agreed a truce that would hold until 8pm when the talks between Yanukovych and the opposition were expected to end.
"Keep the barricades in place but [be] calm until the talks finish," he said.
The protesters have marked their frontline with a semicircle of burning tyres which have sent rancid plume of black smoke billowing into the Kiev sky and are visible throughout the city.
However, under the terms of the truce, protesters allowed police to douse the fires with water cannon.
The leader of the opposition Fatherland party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, had warned the protesters that Yanukovych had 24 hours to agree a peaceful solution.
"If he does not go down that path then we will go forwards together and if it means a bullet to the head, then it is a bullet to the head," he said.
Protesters sought to reinforce the protest barricades by several metres by filling sandbags with snow, turning the protest zone around Independence Square into a virtual fortress.