Ukraine crisis: Peaceful negotiations ‘futile’

Efforts to resolve Ukraine’s unrest in the capital Kiev by peaceful means are “futile”, the interior ministry says.

Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said negotiations with the protesters had failed. He blamed “radical groups” for the unrest, adding protesters had arms.

The comments came as protesters tried to seize the energy ministry. Officials said it was “an act of terrorism”.

Protests broke out in late November after the government’s rejection of a planned treaty with the EU.

The crisis escalated this week when two activists were shot dead during clashes near the main protest camp on Kiev’s Independence Square.

On Friday, anti-government demonstrations spread beyond the capital, with protesters now occupying several regional government buildings.

President Viktor Yanukovych earlier promised to make concessions to try to end the country’s crisis.

He pledged to amend anti-protest laws and reshuffle the cabinet.

But opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko said the protesters now wanted the president to resign.

‘Direct threat’

The interior minister said the opposition was no longer able to control “radical forces” and was putting civilians in danger.

“The events of the last days in the Ukrainian capital have shown that our attempts to solve the conflict peacefully, without recourse to a confrontation of force, remain futile,” Mr Zakharchenko said in a statement on Saturday.

“Our calls have not been heeded and a truce is being violated.”

He also accused protesters of shooting a police officer and kidnapping three others.

The statement came after fresh violence erupted overnight between protesters and riot police in Kiev.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky said around 100 activists had attempted to take over the ministry’s main building in central Kiev.

He said the protesters left after he spoke to them, but were still blocking the building’s entrance.

“What is taking place is a direct threat to the whole Ukrainian energy system,” he was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

Nationwide unrest

Protesters have also seized a number of government buildings in other Ukrainian cities.

  • In the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, some 1,500 protesters occupied the regional administration and barricaded themselves in the building. They are now demanding that the local governor should resign immediately.
  • In Chernivsti, also in the west, crowds stormed the governor’s office as police tried to protect the building. People shouted “Shame on you!” and “Resign!”
  • In Lutsk, in the north-west, a big demonstration was being held outside the local administration.
  • Regional offices were being blockaded in the western city of Uzhgorod and unrest was reported in the eastern city of Sumy.
  • In Lviv, protesters have built barricades around the governor’s office that they seized on Thursday. There were also reports that some members of the special police, Berkut, were resigning.The demonstrations were initially triggered by the last-minute decision of Mr Yanukovych’s government to ditch a proposed association and free trade deal with the EU in November – under heavy pressure from neighbouring Russia.

    But the protests later widened their demand to include the fight against what activists say are widespread government corruption and abuse of power.

    The authorities deny the allegations.

    Mr Yanukovych has vowed to use “all legal means” if a solution to the crisis were not found.