Ukranian protesters dig in after president yields nothing in talks

Opposition leader fears impasse could lead to further bloodshed as demands are rejected

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 11:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 10:13pm

Ukrainian anti-government protesters erected more street barricades in the capital, Kiev, yesterday after opposition leaders emerged empty-handed from talks with President Viktor Yanukovych that were aimed at defusing two months of unrest.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko said Yanukovych had yielded nothing in a second round of talks with the opposition on Thursday evening, and he voiced fears that the continued impasse could now lead to further bloodshed.

At least three protesters were killed early on Wednesday in Kiev - two from gunshot wounds - after clashes between protesters and riot police. Scores of others on both sides have been injured, many of them with eye injuries caused by flying projectiles and police rubber bullets.

There was a list of demands that we did not get. … So now we will build barricades

After speaking first to protesters manning barricades at the main confrontation point with police, Klitschko then went to Kiev's Independence Square where he declared: "Hours of conversation were spent about nothing. There is no sense sitting at a negotiating table with someone who has already decided to deceive you.

"I earnestly wish that there will be no bloodshed and that people are not killed. ... I will survive, but I am afraid there will be deaths, I am afraid of this," the boxer-turned-politician said.

Three opposition politicians - Klitschko, former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk and far-right nationalist Oleh Tyahnibok - had tried to wring concessions from Yanukovych that would end two months of street protests against his rule.

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Kiev after Yanukovych backed away from signing a free-trade deal with the European Union, which many people saw as the key to a European future, in favour of financial aid from Ukraine's old Soviet master Russia.

But the movement has since widened into broader protests against perceived misrule and corruption in the Yanukovych leadership.

Earlier on Thursday, Yanukovych had suggested he might be prepared to make concessions to the opposition when he called for a special session of parliament next week to consider the opposition demands and find a way out of the crisis. But this did not impress opposition leaders.

After several hours, the three opposition leaders emerged to say he had made no concessions at all and they ordered their followers to take immediate action to broaden the zone of protest in Kiev and in other cities.

"I believe we must go step by step - today a few towns, tomorrow there will be more. Today a few barricades, tomorrow more. We will extend the territory of the 'Maidan'," he said, using the local name for Independence Square, the crucible of the protest movement.

Yatsenyuk, another opposition leader, said: "There was a list of demands that we did not get. Will we go back? No. So now we will build barricades."