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Ukraine

Ukraine President Yanukovych calls for extraordinary session of parliament

Ukrainian President Yanukovych has reportedly called an extraordinary session of parliament to end the political crisis. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on him to repeal anti-protest laws.

Ukraine parliament to meet

The Ukrainian parliament was to hold an extraordinary session next week at President Yanukovych's request, according to the presidency's website on Thursday.

Parliament speaker Volodymyr Ryak confirmed the session would take place, indicating that lawmakers would be discussing the possible resignation of the current government, which the opposition has been demanding since November.

Shortly after the announcement, Ukraine Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, dismissed calls for early elections, calling them "unrealistic," according to Reuters news agency.

The Ukrainian opposition and protesters have been calling for the current government under President Yanukovych to step down following his decision to scrap a trade deal with the EU in November. Some fear the move signalled his wish to foster stronger trade ties with Russia instead.

The capital city has seen waves of mass protests over the past two months. Late last week, new legislation aimed at ending the anti-government movement prompted renewed protests which have resulted in an escalation in violence and the first protest-related deaths.

Police on Wednesday tore down barricades and protesters responded by hurling fire bombs and stones at them. Police retaliated with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets, killing three protesters.

Opposition sets deadline

Prior to the announcement of an extraordinary session of parliament, Ukrainian opposition leaders said they had given President Yanukovych a deadline to answer to their demands. They were to meet with him on Thursday.

Klitschko fights for Europe

Ahead of the meeting, opposition leader and world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko told protesters," By 8:00 p.m. (1800 UTC) I will return to you and inform you of the result of the talks," the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted him as saying.

"Keep the barricades in place but [be] calm until the talks finish," he said.

The opposition has said that in order for a compromise to be reached the president must dismiss the government, call early elections and scrap harsh anti-protest legislation that was passed last week.

"The chances are not great, but they exist," Klitschko added.

Germany against sanctions

Media reports on Thursday evening indicated the Chancellor Angela Merkel had demanded President Yanukovych repeal anti-protest laws and had urged him to hold a "serious dialogue" with opposition leaders.

Speaking on the sidelines of the German cabinet's retreat in Meseberg earlier in the day, Chancellor Angela Merkel said sanctions wouldn't be the correct reaction to the political crisis in Kyiv.

Klitschko talks to DW

"[Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and I] expect the Ukrainian government to ensure democratic freedom, in particular the opportunity to hold peaceful demonstrations," Merkel told reporters.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier was reportedly in contact with the Ukrainian opposition.

German lawmakers have joined the EU in its criticism of Kyiv's crackdown on dissidents. Last week, Chancellor Merkel warned that Yanukovych's support of anti-protest legislation would "inevitably have consequences for cooperation with the European Union."

kms/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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