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Ukraine

Ukraine opposition shuns Yanukovych power-share offer

Opposition leaders have reacted guardedly to an offer from President Viktor Yanukovych that would give them the premier's and deputy prime minister's posts. Ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko said the deal was "poisoned."

Situation still tense in Kyiv

The opposition in Ukraine differed only slightly in their reception of Yanukovych's compromise offer, which would place a former interior minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in the role of prime minister and would make former boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko deputy prime minister. The president outlined the proposal in talks on Saturday.

"This was a poisoned offer from Yanukovych, designed to divide our demonstrators' movement," Klitschko told German Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag. "We will continue to negotiate and are still demanding early elections."

Ukraine's next presidential election is scheduled for 2015, Klitschko told protesters at Kyiv's Independence Square, or Maidan, that his UDAR (Punch) party wanted it to be held this year. The central square has served as the focal point for two months of public protests against the government.

Yatsenyuk was less emphatic in his response, but similarly told protesters in the capital on Saturday night that he would not place much stock in a verbal promise.

"Tuesday is judgment day," Yatsenyuk told the crowds, referring to the next extraordinary session of Ukraine's parliament, when the new ministerial appointments could be made. "We do not believe any of their words, we believe in action."

Further opposition demands

Yatsenyuk also said his party was "ready to take the country into the European Union," one of the major reasons for two months of protests in the capital, and a week of more intense violence between police and demonstrators. The protests began when Yanukovych surprisingly shelved a planned Association Agreement with the EU - one of the steps en route to joining the bloc - in favor of closer ties with Moscow.

The 39-year-old trained lawyer Yatsenyuk also called for former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to be released from jail, along with other political prisoners.

Protests and sporadic clashes continued overnight in the capital, protesters attacked a temporary security facility near the Maidan square and police responded with stun grenades. This followed a warning from Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko that authorities were considering a tougher approach to the unrest, saying efforts to resolve the unrest "peacefully" had proven "futile."

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Saturday condemned the "use of force and brutality" by police against demonstrators and called for genuine dialogue between the opposing factions.

"This dialogue can only succeed if there is the political will to overcome the crisis, especially within the government," Van Rompuy said.

The EU's Expansion Commissioner Stefan Füle is on hand seeking to mediate; he held talks with President Yanukovych on Friday and with opposition leader Yatsenyuk on Saturday. Yatsenyuk and Klitschko have both repeatedly called for more western mediation.

Government officials say three people have been killed in the past week, while the opposition puts the toll at six. Both sides also dispute the causes of death.

msh/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

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