Ukraine protests: Demonstrations called a ‘genuine attempt at a coup d’état’ as opposition leader Vitali Klitschko warns President Yanukovych 'Give us an election or we'll attack'

Hopes of agreement between Ukraine’s opposition leaders and the President after talks  break up – but situation in capital remains tense despite truce

Kiev remained braced for further violence last night despite an opposition leader raising hopes for a political solution after a second round of talks with the government.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk said there was “a high chance of halting the bloodshed”. But opposition supporters booed and shouted “shame” when asked to maintain a truce with police.

After another night of rioting, Kiev settled into an uneasy lull on Thursday as protesters held a temporary ceasefire for opposition leaders to meet embattled President Viktor Yanukovych. The three main opposition leaders – heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, nationalist Oleh Tyahnybok and Mr Yatsenyuk of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party – met Mr Yanukovych on Thursday night. Mr Klitschko said later: “It was not easy but we have some kind of agreement and let’s see if the people accept that or not.”

Neither side would release details of any possible deal after protesters prepared for new clashes once the eight-hour truce, called by Mr Klitschko, neared its end.

The opposition and the European Union have been ratcheting up the pressure on Mr Yanukovych after a week of protests in which at least three people died at the hands of law enforcement. Some Ukrainian news outlets were reporting that a total of five protesters were dead, though this could not be verified. Mr Yanukovych had left Kiev on Thursday for the World Economic Forum in Davos, but his invitation to the event was cancelled in connection with killings at the demonstrations.

 

In the first sign that mass protests could spread beyond Kiev, protesters had reportedly besieged or stormed government buildings in at least four cities in western Ukraine.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned Mr Yanukovych in a phone call on Thursday that the European Union may take action if he doesn’t end his crackdown on protesters. The EU has long been sympathetic to the movement, which started out in November calling for European integration after Mr Yanukovych’s government snubbed what would have been a historic trade and political deal with the EU. Meanwhile, ambassadors in Brussels met to discuss possible sanctions against government figures following the violence in Kiev.

A protester added tyres to a fire during further clashes with police in central Kiev on Thursday, when thick black smoke engulfed parts of Ukraine's battered capital A protester added tyres to a fire during further clashes with police in central Kiev on Thursday, when thick black smoke engulfed parts of Ukraine's battered capital (AP)
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged Russia and the US to broker negotiations to end the protests in Ukraine. “Without the help, without the co-operation of authoritative representatives of our two countries, this [situation] could lead to catastrophe,” Mr Gorbachev, 82, who has Ukrainian heritage, said in an open letter. “I ask you to seize the opportunity and take a decisive step to help Ukraine return to the path of peaceful development. I am really relying on you.”

Former heavyweight boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko warned that 'early elections will change the situation without bloodshed' Former heavyweight boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko warned that 'early elections will change the situation without bloodshed'

Mr Yanukovych has called a special session of parliament next week to discuss the crisis, but the gesture announced was not greeted as a genuine attempt at finding a solution. At the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov called the demonstrations a “genuine attempt at a coup d’état” and promised not to give in to demands for early elections.

But the Speaker of parliament Volodymyr Rybak, who leads Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, struck a more conciliatory note, saying in a statement that parliament should discuss “the resignation of the government and those questions linked to laws passed by parliament” when it meets next week.

The first fatalities of the protests occurred on Wednesday after three men died, two of them shot dead, the government admitted, by live ammunition. Videos of the protests have shown what appeared to be snipers perched on top of nearby buildings. The third man fell to his death from the gates of Kiev’s Dynamo Stadium, reportedly while fighting with police.

Protesters in Kiev have demanded President Yanukovych calls new elections immediately Protesters in Kiev have demanded President Yanukovych calls new elections immediately

On Wednesday, Mr Klitschko presented Mr Yanukovych with an ultimatum: call snap elections within 24 hours or the opposition would “go on the attack”. Opposition leaders seemed to be changing their stance to reflect growing radicalisation on the square, pledging to face bullets along with their supporters. Mr Klitschko had previously tried to stop violence from breaking out on Sunday, but received a blast from a fire extinguisher in the face for his efforts. At that time, he called those clashing with police “provocateurs”.

“Tomorrow we will go forward together. And if it’s a bullet in the forehead, then it’s a bullet in the forehead, but in an honest, fair and brave way,” Mr Yatsenyuk said on Wednesday.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko (right) with a one of the Kiev protesters (Reuters) Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko (right) with a one of the Kiev protesters
After Mr Klitschko called a ceasefire for talks with Mr Yanukovych, protesters began extinguishing the huge barricade of burning tyres they had set up between themselves and police near the parliament building on Grushevskogo Street, the site of much of the violence. Over the past several days, they have beaten police with bats and wooden planks, lobbed rocks and Molotov cocktails, shot fireworks, fired pneumatic pistols and devised giant slingshots – even a makeshift catapult.

But while both protesters and law enforcement have participated in the escalation of violence, reporting from the clashes has documented numerous instances of alleged police brutality. A journalist from the Russian channel REN TV was struck and then knocked over by what appeared to be a stun grenade while on camera.

Read more:
Ukraine protests comment: Vitali Klitschko has emerged as a real contender in the fight for a political solution to the crisis  
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride