Ukrainian opposition calls on the West to supply assistance

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 February, 2014, 4:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 5:54am

Ukraine's opposition yesterday called for international mediation and appealed for Western financial aid for the first time in their protests against President Viktor Yanukovych.

As tens of thousands of people rallied in Kiev, boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko told the crowd he had requested "international mediation in our negotiations with Yanukovych so there are no misunderstandings".

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former foreign minister, said: "We spoke to our Western partners and told them that we need real financial aid. They are ready to do it. By 'we', I mean the Ukrainian people. Not a single kopeck should go to the Yanukovych regime."

Klitschko and Yatsenyuk both attended the Munich Security Conference on Saturday where Europe and the United States sparred over Ukraine with Russia, which has condemned Western pledges of support as interference. Ukraine is struggling to break free of a painful recession and Russia has put on hold a US$15 billion bailout package, which has been propping up the economy, until a new government is formed.

Yanukovych's office meanwhile said the president would be returning to work today after a few days of sick leave due to "an acute respiratory infection".

At the sprawling protest camp in Kiev that has been the epicentre for two months of protests that have spread across Ukraine, more than 60,000 people protested his rule yesterday.

The opposition is pressing for more concessions from Yanukovych, including the unconditional release of the scores of protesters arrested so far.

Klitschko said they were "hostages" and called for the scrapping of an amnesty law approved by Yanukovych last week that only allows the release if occupied official buildings are vacated within two weeks.

Yanukovych has over the past few days accepted the resignation of his prime minister and repealed the hugely controversial anti-protest laws that had radicalised the protest movement. But the opposition also has other demands, including a constitutional overhaul that would remove some presidential powers.