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Ukrainian protest leaders threaten to abandon non-violence following protester deaths

A temporary truce is in place in Kiev following the deaths of at least three protesters as opposition leaders met Wednesday with the president and planned to continue to meet Thursday. The opposition has threatened to abandon its non-violent approach if demands for government change are not met.
Posted By JC Finley   |   Jan. 23, 2014 at 9:43 AM   |   Comments

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Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych met Wednesday with leaders of the opposition parliamentary factions following a deadly turn of events at the pro-EU rallies in Kiev earlier that day.

The meeting lasted three hours with no evident progress except the promise to continue the dialogue Thursday. Following Wednesday's meeting, opposition leader and UDAR party head Vitali Klitschko threatened "If the president does not go forward... tomorrow we'll go on the offensive." Opposition Fatherland Party member Arseniy Yatsenyuk expressed similar intent "After that, if I get a bullet in my head, then so be it."

Prior to the protester deaths, opposition leaders had advocated non-violence demonstrations.

At least three protesters died Wednesday. Two protesters were shot to death, allegedly by police. A third person's body, reportedly bearing signs of torture, was found in a forest outside Kiev. That activist was believed to have been abducted days earlier.

The president proposed an emergency parliamentary meeting be convened to resolve the political crisis. Parliamentary Chairman Volodymyr Rybak agreed, telling the president "I think that I will sign such a resolution today and we will invite Verkhovna Rada deputies in the beginning of the week in order to consider all the issues emerging today." The session, expected to be convened next week, would focus discussion on opposition demands that the government resign and recently passed anti-protest legislation.

More than 1,400 people were injured in clashes with security forces between Monday and Tuesday. Approximately 300 were injured Wednesday.

Protests began in November 2013 following Ukrainian President Yanukovych's announcement that Ukraine would not join the EU. Pro-EU rallies have continued since November, with protesters voicing opposition to Ukraine's economic ties to Russia.

[Washington Post]
[BBC]
[Interfax Ukraine News Agency]

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