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Ukrainian lawmakers turn back opposition's no-confidence measure

  |   Dec. 3, 2013 at 10:21 AM
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KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- As thousands of protesters rallied outside parliament, Ukrainian lawmakers Tuesday rejected a no-confidence measure to oust the government, officials said.

The move to force the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government fell 40 votes short of the minimum 226 votes needed, RIA Novosti reported.

Just before the vote, Azarov promised to make "decisive personnel changes" in the government.

Azarov and other lawmakers had trouble getting to the parliament because of the throngs of people outside. Russian media placed the number of protesters in the tens of thousands.

The government's decision not to sign an association deal with the European Union last week sparked massive anti-government demonstrations and calls for mass resignations of government officials.

In an apparent nod to the demonstrators, though, President Viktor Yanukovych Monday asked the European Commission permission to send a delegation for talks on "some aspects" of the association agreement that Ukraine had been expected to sign, the BBC said.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso agreed to the request, stressing the body would discuss the agreements that were ready to be implemented but would not "reopen any kind of negotiations."

Yanukovych made a U-turn on the EU trade deal last month, saying the country's economy would suffer, pledging instead to focus on strengthening ties with Russia.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful until Sunday when police clashed with protesters in Kiev's Independence Square after a rally that drew hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Amid calls for a general strike, the headquarters of the Cabinet has been blockaded and employees unable to reach work.

City officials said Monday nearly 300 people were injured in the operation, and 109 protesters and 53 police officers hospitalized, RIA Novosti reported.

Azarov said the political opposition was under the "illusion" it could overthrow the government, Interfax reported.

"We know that a plan is being prepared to seize the parliament," he said.

Azarov told Western ambassadors Monday the protests have "all the signs of a coup. ... That is very serious. We are patient, but we want our partners not to feel that everything is permitted."

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States doesn't "consider peaceful demonstrations coup attempts."

Russian President Vladimir Putin compared events in Ukraine to a "pogrom," RIA Novosti said. He blamed outsiders for the protests he said were an attempt to destabilize Ukraine's existing government.

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