Tensions remain high in Ukraine as bid to force out government fails


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The Independent Online

There were calls for more mass protests in Ukraine today after the opposition failed to force out the government with a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

The opposition called the vote to protest against President Viktor Yanukovych’s shelving of the anticipated agreement to deepen political and economic ties with the European Union and the violent tactics used by police to disperse demonstrators.

The dispute has brought crowds of up to 300,000 people to the streets of Kiev, the largest outpouring of public anger since the 2004 Orange Revolution. The no-confidence measure got the support of 186 members of the Verkhovna Rada, 40 shy of the majority needed. Even if it had passed, Mr Yanukovych would have remained President, but the Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, and his cabinet would have been ejected.

In parliament, Mr Azarov apologised for the violence by the riot police. “Both the President and the government feel deeply sorry that it happened,” he said, against a background of chants of “shame” and “resign” from the opposition.

But he denounced protesters who have blocked access to government offices.

“We are open for dialogue,” Mr Azarov said. “We have extended our hand to you, but if we encounter a fist, I will be frank, we have enough force,” he added.