Ukraine protests: Police forced to abandon Kiev conference centre to opposition as protests spread further across the country

Protesters claim the newly-occupied Ukrainian House complex had a police sniper post with 'spent cartridges' on the roof

Kiev

Ukraine’s two-month old anti-government protests have spread further across the country despite offers of concessions from President Viktor Yanukovych.

Thousands of demonstrators attempted to take over the regional government office in Dnipropetrovsk on Sunday, a major industrial hub in eastern Ukraine home to more than one million people and birthplace of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Thousands more tried to seize the local government headquarters in the south-eastern city of Zaporizhia, local media reported. Further protests took place in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Lutsk and Sumy over the weekend, raising fears that the previously peaceful movement is morphing into a national uprising.

In Kiev on Sunday, hundreds of protesters chanted “heroes don’t die” as the coffin of one demonstrator shot dead in clashes with police was paraded through the city centre.

The opposition cancelled a mass rally to hold a memorial for 25 year-old Mikhail Zhiznevsky – one of at least three people to have died when protests in the capital turned violent last week.

“We just want to live in a free and peaceful country,” said one protester at the memorial, who gave his name as Vladimir. “This death shows we live under a dictatorship.”

Later, police clashed with protesters in central Kiev

Opposition leaders have so far dismissed surprise concessions, offered by Mr Yankuovych on Saturday in a bid to defuse the political crisis.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of Ukraine’s largest opposition bloc, was offered the role of Prime Minister and world champion boxer-turned-politician, Vitali Klitschko, who leads Udar, was offered the post of Deputy Prime Minister, in charge of humanitarian affairs.

Addressing protesters in Kiev's Maidan, or Independence Square, on Saturday night, opposition leaders said demonstrations would continue as they maintain demands for early elections and changes to the constitution to limit sweeping presidential powers.

Anti-government protesters carry the body of Mikhail Zhiznevsky, 25, a protester killed during clashes with police on Wednesday Anti-government protesters carry the body of Mikhail Zhiznevsky, 25, a protester killed during clashes with police on Wednesday(Getty Images)
"No deal... we're finishing what we started. The people decide our leaders, not you," Mr Yatsenyuk later tweeted, in a message to Mr Yanukovych. 

Demonstrations began in Kiev in November after Mr Yanukovich spurned a political and trade agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia. The protests turned violent over a week ago, after the government introduced tough new anti-protest laws restricting freedom of expression, movement and assembly, in an attempt to curb the demonstrations.

Early on Sunday morning, demonstrators in the capital Kiev stormed the Ukrainian House convention centre, throwing fireworks and Molotov cocktails at police who had been stationed inside to monitor the mass protests that have engulfed the city centre. Protesters now occupy six buildings in the city, including the city hall and ministry of agriculture.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to fly to Brussels tomorrow for talks with EU leaders, where the unrest in Ukraine will almost certainly be discussed. Russia – which regards Ukraine as being firmly within its sphere of influence - has previously warned the EU to stop interfering in Kiev’s affairs.

Russia and the EU have "a number of differences which need to be discussed and clarified" at the summit, European Council leader Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement.

Government insiders in Kiev and Moscow say Mr Yanukovych is under considerable pressure from Mr Putin to crush the demonstrations, which it sees as a threat to its hold over former Soviet states.

“For the Kremlin, Ukraine is Russia,” James Sherr, associate fellow at Chatham House and author of ‘Hard Diplomacy and Soft Coercion: Russia’s Influence Abroad’, told The Independent. “It believes the protests are being orchestrated by the West. If Ukraine were to go its own way, Russia would be amputated.”

The Kremlin rewarded Ukraine’s pivot away from the EU with a $15bn (£9bn) bailout to rebalance its dire finances, but Mr Sherr says it could decide to withhold some of this much-needed aid if Mr Yanukovych fails to restore calm.

Radical elements, such as the far-right group Right Sector, have been blamed for stoking clashes with police. Yet at the huge protest barricades at Hrushevs’koho St over the weekend, several previously peaceful protesters told The Independent they had decided to arm themselves with sticks for protection after instances of police brutality, and in response to the passing of the tough anti-protest laws.

For a few hours on Sunday afternoon, relative calm descended on Kiev for the memorial.

Yula, a 28-year-old social anthropologist who has been coming to the protests since November, believes Mr Yanukovych is “nothing more than a gangster”. She said she protests to continue what she and thousands of others started during the 2004 Orange Revolution.

“I have come for more than politics. This is more than an objection to violence, more than a memorial for the deaths of three people,” she said. “Our system is cracked and it has to change. People are fed up with the dysfunction and corruption that affects more than government – our medical services, our justice system, our education. It has to stop.” 

Read more: Ukraine protests: what exactly is going on in Kiev?
President Viktor Yanukovich offers top government posts to opposition leaders
Profile: Is heavyweight boxing champion turned politician Vitali Klitschko the man to rescue his country’s future?
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
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 NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?