UKRAINE PROTESTS: CRISIS TALKS AFTER DAY OF BLOODSHED

23.01.14


BBC:  Ukrainian opposition leaders are due to meet President Viktor Yanukovych, a day after the first deaths in the protests that have gripped Kiev for two months.

One of them, former boxer Vitali Klitschko, has said he will lead pro-EU protesters "on the attack" if snap elections are not called.

Mr Yanukovych has asked the speaker of parliament to hold an emergency session to discuss the crisis.

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 Mr Yanukovych's decision to pull out of a landmark treaty with the EU.

A third activist, Yuriy Verbytsky, has been found dead in a forest outside Kiev, after reportedly being abducted along with fellow activist Ihor Lutsenko earlier this week. His body is said to bear signs of torture.

The BBC's Duncan Crawford has spoken to a student, Mikhail Nizkoguz, 17, who accused riot police of dragging him from the street on Monday and torturing him by beating and stabbing.

His face and body is covered with cuts and bruises. He said police accused him of firing fireworks at them - but that he was only taking pictures.

A police press spokesperson in Kiev told the BBC they know nothing about any cases of alleged torture.

Hundreds of protesters and scores of police officers have been injured in the clashes around Independence Square this week. According to a list on the website of Ukrainian media non-governmental organisation Imi, 42 journalists were also hurt this week alone.

The centre of Kiev remains extremely tense, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports. Barricades are still burning, billowing black smoke from the piles of tyres that now mark the front line between the riot police and the protesters.

Dead men named

President Yanukovych has assured the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, he will not introduce a state of emergency. The two had spoken by phone, the Commission said on Thursday.

But Mr Yanukovych said he had asked the speaker of Ukraine's parliament to hold an emergency session next week.

Before heading to his talks with Mr Yanukovych, Mr Klitschko urged both the protesters and police to refrain from any further use of force until he reported back on Thursday evening.

He is bringing three main demands to the talks: a snap presidential election, the cancellation of tough anti-protest laws enacted last week and the resignation of the government.

Addressing protesters on Wednesday, he said the president could end the stand-off "without bloodshed". Otherwise, he added, "we will go on the attack".

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said opposition leaders should be "more humble" and "move away from the language of ultimatums".

Officials confirmed two bodies were found with bullet wounds close to the scene of the clashes on Wednesday, when riot police again fought running battles with rioters hurling petrol bombs and stones.

One of those killed was identified as Serhiy Nihoyan, the 20-year-old son of Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, who travelled from his home in eastern Ukraine in December to join the protests.

The other man shot was named as Belarusian citizen Mikhail Zhyznewski, who was at the protest with Una-Unso, a Ukrainian far-right group. The group paid tribute to him on its website.

Another man was also reported to have died after falling from the top of the Dynamo football stadium. However, a spokeswoman for Kiev's health department said he had survived the fall and was being treated in the hospital.

Mr Azarov denied that the police were responsible for the deaths, saying they were not carrying live ammunition.

They "remain on the consciousness and responsibility of the organisers and certain participants of mass disturbances", he said.

Visas revoked

The European Union said earlier it would "rethink" its relationship with Ukraine if there was a "systematic violation of human rights".

The US accused the Ukrainian government of failing to "engage in real dialogue" and revoked the visas of "several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence". It did not give names.

Russia has accused the EU and US of "outside interference" in Ukrainian affairs.

"The extremist part of the opposition is crudely violating the country's constitution," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.

BBC NEWS


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