Tensions in Ukraine spread to second major city
Kiev, Ukraine • Tensions in Ukraine spread far from its embattled capital on Thursday as hundreds of people in the city of Lviv stormed into the regional governor's office and forced him to write a letter of resignation.
Kiev, the capital, has been the epicenter of two months of protests against President Viktor Yanukovych after he turned away from closer ties to the 28-nation European Union in favor of getting a bailout loan from Russia. The protests have turned violent this week as pro-EU demonstrators feel Yanukovych has ignored their demands to resign, call a new election and rescind his harsh laws against protesters.
Lviv is one of the major cities in western Ukraine, where support for Yanukovych is thin. The governor, Oleh Salo, who was appointed by Yanukovych, later insisted he acted under duress and was rescinding his resignation.
Yanukovych on Thursday called a special parliament session for next week to discuss the tensions that have spiraled after at least two protesters were killed Wednesday in violent clashes with police. Opposition leaders had demanded that Yanukovych must make concessions by Thursday evening or face renewed clashes between protesters and police in Kiev.
However, there was no indication that Yanukovych's call represented an inclination to compromise with opposition protesters, since his backers hold a majority of seats in parliament.
As three opposition leaders prepared to hold another round of talks with Yanukovych on Thursday, protesters in Kiev extinguished burning barricades shielding them from police, enforcing a tenuous peace ahead of the evening deadline. The fires had coated downtown Kiev with thick black smoke.
The fragile truce came after three main opposition leaders urged protesters late Wednesday to refrain from violence for 24 hours until their ultimatum to Yanukovych expired.
The new laws against protests triggered violence Sunday near the large tent camp on Kiev's main square where protesters have stood their ground around the clock for nearly two months.
According to the presidential web site, Yanukovych told parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybank the special session was necessary because "the situation demands an urgent settlement."
The Ukrainian parliament is known for dramatically contentious sessions that sometimes erupt into fistfights between legislators.
There was no immediate response to Yanukovych's parliament move from opposition leaders, who were waiting to be received by Yanukovych. But his staunch ally, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, has assumed a harsh stance against the protesters, calling their actions an attempted coup d'etat.
"It's not the opposition, it's rebels who are acting against us," Azarov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.