Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych defiant amid turmoil

 

Matthew Price compares life inside the "protest zone" in Kiev with the rest of the city, where life continues as normal

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has insisted that he and his government are doing all they can to solve the crisis in the country.

But the political opposition continued to "inflame" the situation, he added.

The statement was issued in Ukrainian on the presidential website after weeks of often-violent anti-government protests in Kiev and other cities led to a series of government concessions.

It followed an announcement that Mr Yanukovych, 63, was on sick leave.

At the scene

On the streets of Kiev, there's little sympathy for a president with a bad cold.

Protesters seem more concerned with how to force Viktor Yanukovych from power than wishing him a speedy recovery.

They are unimpressed by the concessions which the president claims to have made this week. Ukraine's parliament has repealed controversial anti-protest laws. But, so far, President Yanukovych has yet to sign off on that.

Protesters are underwhelmed, too, by the amnesty for arrested activists passed by the parliament late last night. Opposition leaders have denounced the terms as "unacceptable".

For now, it feels like a stalemate. The protesters remain deeply suspicious of the authorities and determined to stay on the streets.

The presidential website said he had a respiratory illness and a high fever.

The protests began in November after President Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign a trade deal with the European Union, instead favouring a bailout deal with Russia to underpin Ukraine's ailing economy.

Anti-government protesters demanding the president's resignation are still occupying government buildings and manning barricades in freezing temperatures in the centre of the capital.

The past week has seen President Yanukovych accept the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet, and offer senior jobs to the opposition - offers that were rejected.

The country's parliament has also voted to annul a recently enacted law restricting protests - which appeared to be inflaming the situation - and passed a law giving amnesty to detained protesters, under the condition that occupied buildings were vacated.

"We have fulfilled all the obligations which the authorities took on themselves," President Yanukovych said in the statement.

Protesters in Ukraine insist the president must resign

"However, the opposition continues to inflame the situation calling on people to stand in the cold for the sake of the political ambitions of a few leaders. I think this is wrong."

He added that the opposition was making "ill-considered and irresponsible announcements, thinking about their own ratings more than the life and health of people".

However, striking a more conciliatory note, he added: "From my side, I will show more understanding to the demands and ambitions of people, taking into account the mistakes that authorities always make... I think that we can together return the life of Ukraine and its people to peace."

Protesters have been on the streets in freezing conditions for months Protesters have been on the streets in freezing conditions for months
An opposition protester smokes a cigarette as he warms himself near a fire in the centre of Kiev on January 30, 2014 They want closer ties with the European Union rather than with neighbouring Russia
A protester looks through binoculars at riot police as he guards the barricades in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 Lining up against them are the riot police, and violent clashes have left several dead in recent weeks
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych President Yanukovych remains under pressure despite making concessions to the opposition

Some opposition figures expressed scepticism about Mr Yanukovych's reported illness, saying he might be trying to buy time after being forced into concessions in an attempt to calm unrest on the streets.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Kiev explains why Ukraine has such strong ties with Russia

"This smacks of a diplomatic illness," Rostislav Pavlenko, a member of boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko's Udar (Punch) party, told Reuters news agency.

Ukraine unrest - key dates

21 Nov 2013: Ukraine announces it will not sign a deal aimed at strengthening ties with the EU

30 Nov: Riot police detain dozens of anti-government protesters in a violent crackdown in Kiev

17 Dec: Russia agrees to buy $15bn of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of gas it sells to the country

16 Jan 2014: Parliament passes law restricting the right to protest

22 Jan: Two protesters die from bullet wounds during clashes with police in Kiev; protests spread across many cities

25 Jan: President Yanukovych offers senior jobs to the opposition, including that of prime minister, but these are rejected

28 Jan: Parliament votes to annul protest law and President Yanukovych accepts resignation of PM and cabinet

29 Jan: Parliament passes amnesty law for detained protesters, under the condition occupied buildings are vacated

"It allows Yanukovych not to sign laws, not to meet the opposition, absent himself from decisions to solve the political crisis."

Mykhailo Chechetov, from Yanukovych's Party of Regions, said the president had told supporters in parliament on Wednesday night that he had come to support the passage of the amnesty bill directly from hospital. "He looked ill," Mr Chechetov added.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, is in Kiev for talks with both sides. On Wednesday she said she was "shocked" by the violence in the capital and across the country in recent weeks that has left several protesters and police officers dead.

She said Ukraine needed "a political process that is engaged in quickly and properly by everyone", adding: "The responsibility is inevitably going to fall on government to do that as quickly as possible."

Moscow has indicated that it may hold back some of a promised bailout package until a new government is formed.

The loans, totalling $15bn (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) and agreed in December, were widely seen as a reward for Kiev's rejection of the EU deal.

Meanwhile a protest leader who had been missing for eight days was found alive on Tuesday evening.

Dmytro Bulatov - leader of the Automaidan motorists' protest - says he was beaten, tortured and left to die by men speaking with a Russian accent.

He is now receiving treatment in a Kiev hospital.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 235.

    It seems astonishing that protesters are risking their lives to join the EU whilst southern Europeans are bankrupt, unemployed and taxed to the hilt at the hands of Brussels.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 234.

    Why didn't the EU invite the pro-west Orange gov/t to sign an agreement? As for the claims about corruption, just shifting the wealth from the crooks who supported Orange to those that support POR. These rioters should visit Bulgaria, talk to the people, they will tell them, the EU raped them of their land & their children who leave for Ger, UK leaving Bulgaria w/o a future; Ukraine, listening?.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 233.

    Yes Clive (225), Yanukovych was democratically elected. So was Adolph Hitler. It´s the undemocratic abuse of his power since then that´s the problem. and the many Ukrainians I know (both in Ukraine and in the West) have had enough of corrupt leaders who use their power to enrich themselves at the expense of the voters.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 232.

    @Mick Clayton, Sorry, could you please explain how the protesters are neo-nazis?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 231.

    Unfortunately the past is viewed through rose coloured glasses.
    i read some of Ukraine's history and made a simple link. Lenin imprisoned the political system. Stalin starved millions to death from a perceived fear of and uprising. Putin wants to rebuild the USSR (Russian Empire) by bullying and bribery. my connection, Russian leaders whose name finish with the letters -IN all bad for ukraine

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 230.

    I am from Ukraine and I support the protests. Praise to Ukraine, praise to Heroes! And thank you BBC for fair news from Kiev streets!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 229.

    @grumpy old man...

    Maya is clearly a troll from some Russian boiler room.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 228.

    Article states that people are there for EU. That's totally wrong. After Nov 30, people are there for justice. Special ops were beating people, hijacking them, crashing people cars, undressing protester and keeping him naked in -20 degrees! There's plenty of videos for crimes of the government, you can recognize soldiers faces who torture people and not a single gov. employee was arrested for it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 227.

    I think every leader of a state who wants his state to be respecting any internal and external rules of human and politician laws must be conscious that every crisis is bad. Every movement directed against wellness of the nation is instantly seen by every member of an international group of law experts who are able to do everything in order to force him to jusify action.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 226.

    Maya open your eyes and smell the coffee, my family are living in Ukraine,m I have seen first hand what this regime has done to Ukraine. Ask yourself how the presidents son became a millionaire in 2 years. he had the only company that could provide the service that his fathers law made mandatory. Your rhetoric is based on B****t and has nothing to support it. I feel sorry for you,

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 225.

    Let's get this right - the protestors want to violently depose a democraticlly elected leader because they want the country they live in to become part of a centralised super-state which will impose regulation of the economy and the political system in the interests of the 'market'. No wonder the media in this country think they are brave 'freedom fighters'!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 224.

    Maya this is hard, let me think? ah yes, Poland, Hungary Romania, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Latvia, Albania, East Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia the list goes on, worse off, Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, actually all those that have not joined the EU. as for the rest of your comments, clearly you have never had a free and open election. yes western democracy is not perfect, but ok.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 223.

    Get your facts right Mr.Rosenberg. "Russia" did not exist in 988 when Volodymyr adopted christianity. There was one state of Kyivan Rus, Russia came into existence much later in the middle ages when the principality of Muscovy started to expand adopting the name "Russia". It is like saying Italy was formed when Caesar was crowned Roman Emperor. Reports like this belittle & patronise Ukrainians.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 222.

    Just to add to what mrjohnno wrote: During voting rounds in small cities and country sides where there was no foreign supervision, votes with ballot boxes were often swapped while transported by masked people who worked for Mr.Yanukovych. No manipulation or fraud method was sparred for him to appear elected in the total vote count.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 221.

    Dans-name at least 1 Country from ex USSR, that now is in the EU and lives better, than in the USSR - WE both know that EU is not run through democracy, but through totalitarian regime of Brussels and NATO and is all about liberty of individualism and not about moral principles and family traditions, the EU is wrong - 5 states, world bank and Nato controls the people of the EU and not the people !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 220.

    @219 maya

    Really? Innocent police? Ha, don't make me laugh. As someone earlier pointed out the EU. has no money to help the Ukraine. This is a good thing as loans are what make people slaves.... to debt. Ukrainians want a more open society, not a closed minded eastern society. It's not really about the money, except for the establishment. Why do refugees always go to the west?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 219.

    Russian loans are not false promises- a part of this money is already in the government banks, and this money is for people and not for Yanukovich or anyone else, they are helping Ukraine as much as possible not like Eu shadow lobbying and buying drugs and firebombs for protesters who are beating and burning innocent police and civilian homes in Kiev

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 218.

    The Ukrainians in Ukraine want to live as all the ex pats do in other countries - free, making a good living, able to learn new things and not have to worry about a bunch of thieving ex KGB thugs stealing their wealth and equity...
    It's a shame the west didn't crush the Soviets after WWII even though they were told over and over not to trust Stalin...west>free east>slaves

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 217.

    Americans want another NATO base in the Ukraine and just to make protests even worse the puppies of EU - Lithuanian and Polish prime ministers went to Kiev and Publicly told the protesters to go on and fight for "freedom" and told them not to worry, because they will support them- they can not even support themselves and their own people nevermind the Ukrainians !!!!!!!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 216.

    Russian loans are false promises anyway. The people on the street will never benefit from this, and they know it. Perhaps the government run institutions will benefit. Like the police. Lets not forget, as seen around the world, the police are here to serve and protect the establishment. No more, no less. The police would do better sometimes to serve the people of whose families they come from.

 

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