Building pressure, Ukraine protesters enlarge territory, strike at other cities

January 24

Opposition protesters unhappy about the outcome of negotiations with Ukraine’s government cranked up the pressure Friday, moving on several fronts to expand the areas they control, both in the capital and in other cities.

President Viktor Yanukovych, meanwhile, in a meeting with religious leaders, promised to shake up the cabinet next week when parliament is called back into session — although the opposition has demanded its dismissal.

In a show of conciliation, the president also said he would fire all officials involved in a violent police raid on the opposition encampment on Nov. 30.

Despite those efforts to project a stance of reasonable compromise, however, the opposition doesn’t trust him, and the radicals within the opposition are no longer under the control of the mainstream politicians who have been leading the movement.

In Kiev, protesters built new barricades and pushed out farther along side streets feeding the Maidan, or Independence Square. One group seized the Agrarian Policy Ministry building, on Khreshchatyk Street.

Vitali Klitschko is the former heavyweight boxing champion-turned-politician. He's on the front lines of the opposition against Ukraine's ruling government both on the street and in high-level negotiations. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

Elsewhere in the country, demonstrators seized administrative buildings in Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Khmelnitsky, Chernovtsy and Rivne and attempted to take over the local government buildings in Zhytomyr, Poltava and Cherkasy.

Protest rallies were held in Vinnytsia, Sumy, Uzhhorod and even Donetsk, Yanukovych’s home base.

The simultaneous eruptions in provincial cities appeared to be coordinated. And they came even as Yanukovych’s government reiterated at the bargaining table that one of its chief demands is for protesters to leave the buildings they began occupying in November.

But after Thursday’s late-night negotiations between Yanukovych and his adversaries, Justice Minister Olena Lukash said opposition leaders had refused to condemn the seizure of administrative buildings. Instead, after leaving the talks, they called on the crowds of protesters to expand the occupied territory, although they said it must be by peaceful means.

Their audiences jeered the lack of progress in Thursday’s talks beyond a proposal that detainees will be released if a truce between protesters and police is extended. Vitali Klitschko, leader of the opposition UDAR party, said he feared that without an agreement there would be more bloodshed. Yanukovych said Friday that further talks are necessary.

Two protesters have been killed by gunfire, and an activist who was wounded was abducted from a Kiev hospital, beaten and left to die outside the city. Medics told news agencies that at least two others have also been killed.

Yanukovych called on parliament to return from its recess to consider changes to harsh new laws restricting free speech and assembly and to take up a no-confidence vote in the cabinet of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. That session is now planned for Tuesday. Opposition leaders did not place much hope in that development, but they now have several days to try to increase the pressure on the government and force concessions.

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