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Protests

Ukraine opposition trio agree to talks with Yanukovych as protest continues

The three main opposition leaders in Ukraine have agreed to attend talks with President Yanukovych aimed at resolving the political crisis. This came as pro-EU protesters expanded their tent camp in central Kyiv.

Klitschko to challenge for Ukrainian presidency

The three leaders, Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and Oleg Tyangybok, made the announcement in a statement to anti-government protesters at Kyiv's Independence Square on Friday.

"We are going to [President Victor] Yanukovych to hand over our demands. We are going to say that we will stand here and fight until our joint Ukrainian victory," Yatsenyuk, leader of the party of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, told the crowd.

"We have the impression that he [Yanukovych] is not listening to us, maybe his television is not working, maybe he is not being given the information," Klitschko, the world heavyweight champion boxer turned politician said."We want to look him in the eye and say our main demands and hear the answer," he added.

The news came shortly after it was announced that a court had ordered several demonstrators arrested during a police crackdown at the start of the month to be released. The opposition leaders had made this one of their preconditions for meeting with the president. Talks were expected to be held later on Friday.

It wasn't immediately clear, though, whether all arrested had been released. Not long after the opposition leaders agreed to the talks, the president issued a statement in which he offered a general amnesty for detained demonstrators.

"I will propose at the round-table [talks with the opposition] an amnesty," the statement said. "Those people who were detained will be freed."

Tent camp expansion

Meanwhile, protesters who have been braving sub-zero temperatures in tents on Kyiv's Independence Square for the past couple of weeks were working to enlarge the encampment to accommodate more people arriving to take part in the pro-European Union, anti-government protests.

Possible change of heart

Following talks on Thursday with President Viktor Yanukovych, who balked at signing just such a deal last month, the EU's foreign policy coordinator, Catherine Ashton, said he had indicated he was now prepared to do so.

"Look, Yanukovych made it clear to me that he intends to sign the association agreement," Ashton said, adding that such a move "will help to bring in the kind of investment that [Yanukovych] needs."

Also on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected Western accusations that the Kremlin had pressured Yanukovych to join a customs union with Russia instead of signing the deal with Brussels.

pfd/tj ( AFP, dpa, KNA, Reuters)

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