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Talks fail as Kiev braces for more deadly clashes
February 19, 2014, 5:00 pm


Opposition protesters say they will not leave until they bring the Kiev government down [Xinhua]

Opposition protesters say they will not leave until they bring the Kiev government down [Xinhua]

The Ukrainian capital Kiev was rocked by renewed violence this week, when one of the deadliest clashes the country has witnessed in years left at least 26 dead and hundreds others injured in the central Independence Square.

President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders’ late-night meetings failed to produce any solutions to remedy the growing crisis and end the bloodshed, despite international calls for serious negotiations for national reconciliation.

At press time, reports emerged that the European Union was considering slapping Ukraine with punitive sanctions.

Protests in Ukraine began last November after the government reversed a decision to sign a long-awaited trade deal with the EU, receiving instead a $15 billion bailout from northern neighbour, Russia and promises of closer ties.

As the crisis intensified, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned in January.

The situation seemed to be easing up in Kiev earlier in the week. On Sunday, protesters cleared the streets around Kiev’s City Hall, which they had besieged nearly three months ago. The government had also promised amnesty to those detained during riots and protests.

Public rage was reignited, however, when government supporters in parliament refused constitutional amendments that would scale-back the President’s powers.

The MPs said more time and thorough discussions were needed before the proposed amendments could be implemented.

Angered protesters joined those already camped out, and refused to clear Independence Square by a six o’clock deadline security forces had set. Both sides exchanged tear gas, petrol bombs, and gunfire.

According to reports, Ukrainian authorities reclaimed the part of the square closer to government facilities and the parliament building, compelling protesters to reinforce their barricades and prepare for a second imminent battle.

Opposition leaders spoke to the masses through the night, urging them to hold their ground and asked that more citizens join their battle.

The Ukrainian government announced that among those killed were 10 police officers, at least 14 protesters, and a journalist from a Russian-language newspaper.

In a televised statement on Wednesday, Yanukovych declared Thursday a day of mourning, blaming opposition forces for the bloodshed.

In a show of solidarity with the government in Kiev, Russia accused opposition protesters of trying to forcefully and violently overthrow Yanukovych’s regime.

Moscow blamed the West for fueling the crisis.

They dispatched a $2 million cash injection to Ukraine as part an aid package that had been stalled, only hours before security forces moved in on Independence Square.

In early February, Moscow lashed out at Brussels for not condemning the unrest that resulted in the seizure of government buildings by pro-EU protesters.

“Why are there no voices condemning those who seize government buildings, attack the police and adopt racist and anti-Semitic slogans? Why do European leaders actually encourage such actions, when they would quickly move to punish them at home?” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in his criticism while attending the annual Munich Security Conference.

Several government buildings, including the Justice Ministry in Kiev, have been temporarily occupied by demonstrators during the protests.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry said the Ukrainian opposition had the “full support of President Obama”.

EU leaders have publicly condemned the violence, but neighbouring member states Poland and Latvia asked that the Ukrainian government be held accountable.

The EU called for an emergency meeting of foreign ministers on Thursday to discuss the situation in Kiev, promising sanctions against those responsible for the bloodshed.

Sources: Agencies