Kiev protesters blockade key sites

Demonstrators are blockading government buildings in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, as they step up their campaign for the resignation of the government.

Some protesters have put up barricades on Independence Square, while others are entrenched inside city hall.

The unrest was triggered in November by President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a deal on closer EU ties.

Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Rybak said talks between the government and the opposition would be held on Monday.

He said all sides would have an opportunity to express their opinions.

Opposition leaders have called for a national strike and fresh street protests. Overnight hundreds of people put up tents on Independence Square.

Government buildings are occupied and the headquarters of the cabinet has been blockaded, with government employees unable to reach work.

As thousands of protesters converged on Independence Square on Monday they chanted slogans including “Out with the gang!”

On Sunday, several hundred thousand people took part in a march, defying a ban on rallies.

There were clashes near the presidential building, with demonstrators firing flares and riot police using tear gas, batons and stun grenades.

Mainstream opposition leaders condemned the violence, saying it was the work of “provocateurs”. There were also clashes on Sunday as Kiev protesters tried to topple a statue of Lenin.

Some protesters stormed the city hall. One of them is the Russian opposition activist Pyotr Verzilov – husband of Pussy Riot punk group member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is in jail in Russia.

He told the BBC that the protesters were preparing to fight any attempt by police to evict them.

Also on Sunday, activists invaded Trade Unions House, another government building in central Kiev, and set up their main headquarters there.

On Sunday Mr Rybak told Ukrainian TV: “I, as the head of the Supreme Council, guarantee that literally tomorrow such a round table will take place and all representatives in this process will have an opportunity to express their opinions.”

The parliament speaker said President Yanukovych was “on the side of the people who are fully entitled to assemble for peaceful demonstrations and to express their views”.

The leader of the opposition Fatherland party, Arseny Yatsenyuk, said a no-confidence motion had been submitted to parliament.

He also argued that Ukraine could not afford to sacrifice trade with Russia, which opposed the agreement.

Opposition leader and boxer Vitali Klitschko – the current WBC heavyweight champion – urged supporters not to give up control of central Kiev.

“We must mobilise everyone across the country and not lose the initiative,” he said.

Protests started more than a week ago after President Yanukovych suspended preparations for signing an EU association agreement that would have opened borders to goods and set the stage for an easing of travel restrictions.

The deal was to be the centrepiece of a EU meeting in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius last week.

President Yanukovych defended his refusal to sign by saying the EU was not offering adequate financial aid to upgrade Ukraine’s economy.