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The EU has named 18 Ukrainians who will have their assets frozen including ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, his son and former PM Mykola Azarov.
The EU has named 18 Ukrainians who will have their assets frozen including ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and his son
Early on Thursday, the European Union revealed the names of those targeted by its sanctions. The list appears to include Viktor Yanukovych’s closest aides, including a former interior minister, justice minister, the prosecutor general, the head of the security services and the ousted president’s son.
The EU sanctions also target the former PM Mykola Azarov and his son.
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President Vladimir Putin met his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, officials say.
Neither side would confirm what was discussed during the informal conversation during the opening ceremony in the Russian city of Sochi.
Russia has frozen delivery of a $15 billion bailout program pending the formation of a new government in Kiev.
Mass anti-government protests erupted in Ukraine in late November.
Vladimir Putin met his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics
Under pressure from Moscow, Viktor Yanukovych had refused to sign a far-reaching association and trade agreement with the EU.
Amid continuing protests, Viktor Yanukovych has accepted the resignation of PM Mykola Azarov – widely seen as pro-Moscow – and a new prime minister has yet to be nominated.
The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Viktor Yanukovych in Sochi on Friday evening was confirmed by senior Russian and Ukrainian officials.
There was no information about what was discussed, but correspondents speculate it was likely to include the suspended Russian financial package – which Ukraine desperately needs in the face of a sliding currency, dwindling foreign reserves and rising borrowing costs.
Viktor Yanukovych’s meeting with Vladimir Putin follows talks in Kiev last Wednesday between Yanukovych and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine’s first post-independence president, has warned the country is on the “brink of civil War” as parliament debates an amnesty for protesters.
Leonid Kravchuk, president from 1991 to 1994, opened the debate in parliament by urging everyone involved to “act with the greatest responsibility”.
President Viktor Yanukovych wants any amnesty conditional on demonstrators leaving official buildings.
The opposition has so far ruled this out and is demanding early elections.
On Tuesday, PM Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned after months of protests.
Parliament also scrapped a controversial anti-protest law in the biggest concession yet to opposition protesters.
Leonid Kravchuk earned a standing ovation in parliament after telling members that “all the world acknowledges and Ukraine acknowledges that the state is on the brink of civil war”.
“It is a revolution. It is a dramatic situation in which we must act with the greatest responsibility,” he said.
Demonstrations began in November when President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a planned trade deal with the EU in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia to bolster ailing public finances in the former Soviet state.
President Viktor Yanukovych wants any amnesty conditional on demonstrators leaving official buildings
The White House on Tuesday said the issue of a possible amnesty for scores of detained protesters had been raised in a telephone conversation between Vice-President Joe Biden and President Viktor Yanukovych.
The White House said Joe Biden welcomed “progress made” and called on Viktor Yanukovych to sign the repeal of several anti-protest laws.
On Tuesday, PM Mykola Azarov said he was stepping down to create “social and political compromise”. His deputy, Serhiy Arbuzov, has stepped in as interim leader.
Members of his cabinet also resigned, but they can remain in their posts for 60 days until a new government is formed.
Parliament, in an emergency debate on Tuesday, voted to repeal anti-protest legislation, which among other measures banned the wearing of helmets by protesters and the blockading of public buildings.
Correspondents say Mykola Azarov was deeply unpopular with the opposition, who accused him of mismanaging the economy and failing to tackle corruption.
Meanwhile, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has criticized what he called foreign “interference” in Ukraine.
Speaking at the end of an EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Tuesday, Vladimir Putin said visits by overseas envoys were adding to the unrest.
“I think that the Ukrainian people are capable of solving this on their own,” he said.
“I can only imagine how our European partners would respond if in the heat of a crisis in a country like Greece or Cyprus, our foreign minister would appear at one of their anti-European rallies and begin addressing them.”
Correspondents say Vladimir Putin’s comments appear to be a thinly veiled criticism of the EU and other Western nations that have sent a string of diplomats to Ukraine in recent weeks.
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Ukraine’s PM Mykola Azarov has offered his resignation.
In a statement, Mykola Azarov said the move was designed to create “social and political compromise”.
In his resignation statement, PM Mykola Azarov said: “To create additional opportunities for social and political compromise and for a peaceful solution to the conflict, I made a personal decision to ask the president of Ukraine to accept my resignation as prime minister of Ukraine.”
Mykola Azarov said his resignation was designed to create social and political compromise
The government had “done everything to ensure the peaceful resolution of the conflict” and would do “everything possible to prevent bloodshed, an escalation of violence, and violation of citizen’s rights”, he said.
If President Viktor Yanukovych signs the decree for the resignation, then the whole cabinet resigns. But they can remain in their posts for 60 days until a new government is formed.
Viktor Yanukovych had already offered Mykola Azarov’s job to the opposition at the weekend, proposing that Fatherland leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk take the post.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk declined the offer.
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Opposition leaders in Ukraine have issued an ultimatum to President Viktor Yanukovych, after talks failed to resolve the political stalemate.
Vitali Klitschko said he would lead pro-EU protesters “on the attack” in the capital, Kiev, if the government refused to call snap elections.
PM Mykola Azarov said compromises “might be possible”, but the opposition should avoid ultimatums.
Two activists were killed in clashes with police in Kiev on Wednesday.
Prosecutors confirmed they had died from gunshot wounds.
They were the first fatalities since the anti-government protests flared up in late November over Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to pull out of a landmark treaty with the EU.
Late on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Radio Liberty reported the death of a third activist.
The body of Yuri Verbitsky was found in a forest outside Kiev, bearing signs of torture, according to the broadcaster.
He had reportedly been abducted earlier this week with activist Igor Lutsenko, who was later released. Igor Lutsenko is said to be in hospital.
Hundreds of people have been injured in the clashes, though some of the violence has been blamed on a little-known far-right group, Right Sector.
Opposition leaders in Ukraine have issued an ultimatum to President Viktor Yanukovych, after talks failed to resolve the political stalemate
Wednesday’s unrest came on the day that new anti-protest laws entered into force. Parliament approved the laws last week, triggering renewed protests which spilled into violence on Sunday night.
As dawn broke on Thursday, the barricades were still burning, billowing black smoke from the piles of tyres that now mark the front line between the riot police and the protestors.
Speaking at a mass rally on Wednesday evening, Vitali Klitschko said the president could end the stand-off “without bloodshed” by calling early elections, but that “tomorrow, if the president does not respond… then we will go on the attack”, to roars of approval from the crowd.
Vitali Klitschko said police were preparing to clear demonstrators out of the main protest encampment at Maidan (Independence Square).
“We must do all we can to stop them clearing us out,” he told demonstrators.
Another opposition leader, Arseniy Yatseniuk, said the government had 24 hours to respond to the demands, which also include the lifting of the new anti-protest laws.
“If this does not happen, we will march forward together. If it’s a bullet to the head, then it’s a bullet to the head,” he declared.
But the prime minister said opposition leaders should be “more humble”.
“The opposition leaders should move away from the language of ultimatums,” Mykola Azarov said.
“We are ready to compromise, to agree. The opposition leaders should understand that they also bear responsibility in avoiding a civil war, and bloodshed, and so does the government.”
Wednesday’s violence began in a small area around Hrushevskyy Street, a road leading to government buildings close to the protest camp at Maidan.
Security forces later fell back to their positions after fierce clashes with protesters, but by the afternoon had pushed on through the barricades.
Protesters again hurled petrol bombs and stones while riot police responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Thousands of protesters also gathered in Independence Square.
There was a crush at one of the narrow entrances into the square when protesters trying to get in met protesters who were trying to get out to fight the police.
At least two ambulances were seen carrying away the wounded.
Officials confirmed two bodies were found with bullet wounds close to the scene of the clashes.
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Ukraine’s PM Mykola Azarov has told ministers in Kiev that the decision to suspend a deal on closer EU ties and sign a Russian aid agreement instead has helped avoid bankruptcy.
The government’s surprise U-turn on an EU association agreement last month has sparked weeks of mass demonstrations.
But Mykola Azarov said the package from Russia would provide stability.
Russia has agreed to buy $15 billion (11 billion euros) of government bonds and slash the price of gas.
Ukraine’s opposition has demanded to know what Ukraine offered Russia in return.
Thousands of pro-EU protesters have been holding rallies in Kiev – occupying the capital’s Independence Square – and other cities in western and central Ukraine.
Ukraine’s PM Mykola Azarov said the decision to suspend a deal on closer EU ties and sign a Russian aid agreement instead has helped avoid bankruptcy
Critics say President Viktor Yanukovych has sold out to Russia and are calling for him and his government to step down.
But Ukraine’s prime minister defended the deal with Russia in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
“What would have awaited Ukraine? The answer is clear – bankruptcy and social collapse,” Mykola Azarov said.
“What a present for New Year that would be for the people of Ukraine.
“The agreements between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents allow us to plan the years to come as years of development and people’s confidence about their stable lives.”
He said a pact to lower gas prices by about a third would allow for “a revival of economic growth”.
There was no way Ukraine could have signed the EU agreement as Kiev would have had to accept unfeasibly stringent IMF conditions for economic reform, he added.
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NATO foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels have condemned the use of “excessive force” during protests in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Ukraine to “listen to the voices of its people”.
Earlier, Ukraine’s PM Mykola Azarov apologized in parliament for the use of police force against protesters.
Mass protests were sparked by the government’s decision not to sign an association deal with the EU last week.
Thousands demonstrated outside the parliament building in Kiev on Tuesday, with protests in the city once again continuing into the evening.
“We urge all sides to conduct themselves peacefully. Violence has no place in a modern European state,” John Kerry told reporters.
The ministers said in a statement that they urged “Ukraine… to fully abide by its international commitments and to uphold the freedom of expression and assembly”.
“We urge the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue and launch a reform process,” they added.
Mass protests in Kiev were sparked by the government’s decision not to sign an association deal with the EU
Earlier on Tuesday, the Ukrainian parliament rejected an attempt to force the resignation of the government.
The opposition tabled the motion of no-confidence, which was defeated.
Before parliament voted on the motion, Mykola Azarov addressed an emergency session:
“On behalf of our government, I would like to apologize for the actions of our law enforcement authorities on Maidan [Independence Square],” he said, referring to violence at the weekend.
“The president and the government deeply regret that this happened.”
Speaking above boos by opposition deputies in parliament, the prime minister called for protests outside the government buildings in Kiev to end, and appealed for Ukrainians not to return to the unrest of the Orange Revolution of 2004.
“We reach out our hand to you. Push away the plotters, the plotters seeking power and who are trying to repeat the scenario of 2004,” Mykola Azarov said.
Later he said the government was ready for dialogue with protesters but that they must “stop occupying government buildings and interfering with the work of the government administration”.
The newspaper Ukrainska Pravda published a series of videos and photographs which it says backs up the claims.
The images appear to show a group of young men wearing masks and helmets pushing against police lines in front of the presidential building. Soon afterwards several are seen beckoning to others in the crowd and then passing through the blockade, without resistance from officers.
At least one of the men is also pictured standing uninterrupted behind the riot police.
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Russia had urged Ukraine to delay signing a trade deal with the EU, Ukrainian PM Mykola Azarov has admitted, as mass protest rallies continue across the country.
Mykola Azarov said Moscow had offered to hold trilateral talks on the issue, without giving “any ultimatums”.
Kiev last week put on hold the association and free trade deal with the EU, prompting Brussels to accuse Moscow of exerting pressure on Ukraine.
The move triggered huge pro-EU protests in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied putting any pressure on Kiev, accusing instead the EU of “blackmailing” Ukraine into signing the agreement.
Speaking to reporters in Kiev on Tuesday, Mykola Azarov acknowledged that Russia had suggested “to delay signing the treaty and to conduct negotiations” between Kiev, Moscow and the EU.
He said Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych would still attend this week’s EU summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, to discuss the possible consultations with Brussels and Moscow.
Russia had urged Ukraine to delay signing a trade deal with the EU
It had been originally planned that Ukraine would sign the treaty with the EU at the 28-29 November summit.
Mykola Azarov said such three-way talks would be in the best interests of Ukraine: “We absolutely do not want to be a battlefield between the EU and Russia. We want to have good relations with both the EU and Russia.”
He also added that separate “road-map” talks with Russia aimed at reviving economic ties would start next month and no agreement had been finalized on possible new financial support from the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, President Putin said it was solely up to Ukraine whether to sign or not the agreement with the EU.
During a visit to Italy, Vladimir Putin also urged EU leaders to refrain from “sharp words” on the issue.
Ukraine’s government said last Thursday it was halting preparations for signing the deal with the EU, amid concerns this would have a negative impact on Kiev’s trade relations with Russia and cause mass job losses as a result.
Moscow had earlier warned it would be forced to defend its market by raising custom duties on Ukrainian goods.
In a statement on Monday, Viktor Yanukovych said he had been forced to halt treaty preparations by economic necessity and the desire to protect those “most vulnerable”.
Tens of thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets of Ukraine’s major cities since last week.
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More than 100,000 people are protesting against Ukrainian government’s move to delay the EU trade deal under pressure from Russia.
Opposition leaders joined the Kiev protest, said to be the largest since the Orange Revolution in 2004.
Police fired tear gas as protesters tried to break through a cordon around government buildings.
A pro-government rally a few miles away attracted about 10,000 people.
Kiev police said they had fired tear gas after protesters threw a smoke grenade at officers in an attempt to break into the Cabinet of Ministers building.
Police fired tear gas as protesters tried to break through a cordon around government buildings
Ukraine made the decision on the EU deal last week, saying it could not afford to break ties with Moscow. Russia is trying to bring Kiev into its own customs union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU of blackmailing Ukraine to sign the deal during a summit in Vilnius next week.
People arrived at the rally, on European Square, with families and children, many holding banners with slogans like “I want to live in Europe” or “Ukraine is part of Europe”.
Several rallies in Kiev and other cities have been held over the last few days, but Sunday’s has been the largest so far.
World heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who leads the Udar movement and attended Friday’s rally, was not present.
Ukrainian news agency Unian said he had been flying back from the US after celebrating his daughter’s birthday but his plane was not allowed to land in Kiev because of weather conditions.
On Friday, Ukrainian PM Mykola Azarov said the decision not to sign the deal was motivated solely by economics and was “tactical”. He said it did not alter Ukraine’s overall development strategy.
The Ukrainian government says it is now looking into setting up a joint commission to promote ties between Ukraine, Russia and the EU.
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A mass rally has taken place in Kiev following Ukraine’s decision to delay an association agreement with the European Union.
Opposition leaders including former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko have joined the protest on Independence Square.
Activists are comparing the rally to Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. They plan to make it a permanent rally.
Anti-riot police have been deployed.
A Kiev court has ruled that tents must not be erected on the square. In 2004 tents were a big feature of the protests against Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Moscow presidential candidate whose election was marred by voting abuses. He is in power now and his arch-rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, is in jail.
Activists are comparing the rally to Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution
Ukraine came under intense pressure from Russia not to sign the historic EU deal at a summit next week.
Ukrainian activists are using social media to mobilise supporters, and on Thursday night opposition demonstrations also took place in the cities of Donetsk, Ivano-Frankovsk, Lutsk, Uzhgorod and Lviv.
Ukraine’s PM Mykola Azarov has said the decision not to sign a wide-ranging trade and association agreement with the EU next week was motivated solely by economics and was “tactical”. He said it did not alter Ukraine’s overall development strategy.
“The decision to suspend the EU association agreement signing is difficult, but the only one possible in the current economic situation in Ukraine,” Mykola Azarov told parliament.
The Ukrainian government said on Thursday that it was instead looking into setting up a joint commission to promote ties between Ukraine, Russia and the EU.