Ukraine's leader offers concessions in Kiev crisis
by Maria Danilova, Associated Press and Yuras Karmanau, Associated Press
January 24, 2014 12:00 PM | 1025 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev, Ukraine, early Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. A top Ukrainian opposition leader on Thursday urged protesters to maintain a shaky cease-fire with police after at least two demonstrators were killed in clashes this week, but some in the crowd appeared defiant, jeering and chanting "revolution" and "shame." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev, Ukraine, early Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. A top Ukrainian opposition leader on Thursday urged protesters to maintain a shaky cease-fire with police after at least two demonstrators were killed in clashes this week, but some in the crowd appeared defiant, jeering and chanting "revolution" and "shame." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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A protester wearing improvised protective gear helps a woman cross near the barricade in front of riot police in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday Jan. 24, 2014. Protesters have seized a government building in the Ukrainian capital while also maintaining the siege of several governors' offices in the country's west, raising the pressure on the government. After meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday, opposition leaders told the crowds that he has promised to ensure the release of dozens of protesters detained after clashes with police and stop further detentions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A protester wearing improvised protective gear helps a woman cross near the barricade in front of riot police in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday Jan. 24, 2014. Protesters have seized a government building in the Ukrainian capital while also maintaining the siege of several governors' offices in the country's west, raising the pressure on the government. After meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday, opposition leaders told the crowds that he has promised to ensure the release of dozens of protesters detained after clashes with police and stop further detentions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — President Viktor Yanukovych promised Friday to reshuffle his government, free scores of protesters from jail and make other concessions after demonstrations against him spread from Ukraine's besieged capital to nearly half of the country.

At a meeting with religious leaders, Yanukovych vowed that a special parliament meeting next Tuesday will push through changes to his Cabinet, grant amnesty to dozens of jailed activists who are not guilty of serious crimes and will change harsh anti-protest legislation.

The protest law enacted last week appeared to have backfired on Yanukovych, sparking confrontations in which demonstrators threw stones and firebombs at police. The violence was a harsh contrast to the determined peacefulness of the anti-government protests that have gripped the country for two months.

At least two demonstrators were killed this week in clashes with police, and protesters have seized government offices in cities in western Ukraine, where support for Yanukovych is thin.

Protests began in late November after Yanukovych decided to shelve a long-anticipated economic agreement with the 28-nation European Union and receive a bailout from Russia instead. Russian President Vladimir Putin had pressed hard to keep Ukraine in his nation's political and economic orbit while many urban Ukrainians had favored closer ties with the EU.

Yanukovych's comments came as a shaky truce held in the center of Kiev, where thousands of protesters behind giant makeshift barricades kept confronting lines of riot police. Fighting eased Thursday morning, as opposition leaders entered into face-to-face talks with Yanukovych.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters occupied or besieged the offices of regional governors appointed by Yanukovych in western Ukraine, where most people long for closer ties with the EU. At least two governors were forced to sign resignation letters and another one was chased out of his office by an angry crowd.

Anger spread further in Ukraine after the release of a video where riot police were shown humiliating and abusing a protester who was stripped naked. The Interior Ministry has apologized for the actions of those police.

A parliament deputy from Yanukovych's Party of Regions quit the party Friday in the wake of the continued clashes, but presidential allies still control a majority of parliament.

Protesters want Yanukovych to resign and a new election to be held.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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