Ukraine’s YanukovichReturns to Work, Street Protests Go on
Kiev – Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich returned to his desk on Monday after four days of sick leave, while the political opposition pressed for further concessions to end more than two months of street protests. “He is back at work,” a presidential spokesman said. Yanukovich, caught in a tug of war between Russia and the West, is seeking a way out of a sometimes violent confrontation with protesters who have occupied city streets and public buildings following his decision in November to spurn a trade deal with the EU and accept financial aid from Moscow.
His first urgent task, after returning from an absence that some saw as a tactical gambit to gain time, is to name a new prime minister to succeed MykolaAzarov, who stepped down on January 28 under pressure from the protest movement.
The speaker of parliament, an ally of Yanukovich, told lawmakers on Monday ahead of a new session of the legislature starting on Tuesday that the president was still planning to discuss the choice of premier with opposition leaders. “He is preparing these proposals this week,” VolodymyrRybak said. “So far, no nomination papers have been sent to parliament.”
In other concessions, Yanukovich last week approved the repeal of recent anti-protest laws and offered a conditional amnesty to activists who have been detained in the unrest. But opposition leaders, who have received huge backing and promises of financial support from the United States and EU governments, were pressing on Monday for further concessions.
The opposition wants a broader amnesty to free all those detained and a return to an earlier constitution, which would curb Yanukovich’s presidential powers and give greater control to parliament over the formation of governments. Also on Tuesday, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to visit Kiev. She has said the EU and United States are preparing a package of economic support that would be available to Ukraine if it embarks on a transition to a new political system and new elections. (Reuters)