Kiev protesters attack building with police inside
Three protesters have died in the past week’s clashes, two of them from gunshot wounds and a third of unspecified injuries. The Interior Ministry said a policeman was found shot in the head overnight. No arrests have been made or suspects named.
In the meeting with opposition leaders where he made the offer to Yatsenyuk, Yanukovych also agreed to discuss ways of changing Ukraine’s constitution toward a parliamentary-presidential republic, which was one of the demands of the opposition, according to a statement on the presidential website.
If that change went through, the prime minister would have more powers and would be elected by parliament, not appointed by the president. Yanukovych backers currently have a majority in the parliament and the next scheduled election for the legislature will be in 2017.
Earlier, Zakharchenko said the two police officers had been released with the help of negotiations involving foreign embassies. He said they had been hospitalized, but didn’t give details of how they allegedly were abused. He earlier said the officers were seized by volunteer security guards at the protest gatherings in Kiev and held in the city hall, which protesters have occupied since December and turned into a makeshift dormitory and operations center.
But the commandant of the corps, Mykhailo Blavatsky, told The Associated Press that no police officers had been seized.
"The authorities are looking for a pretext to break up the Maidan ( and creating all kinds of provocations," he said. "Capturing a policeman would only give the authorities reason to go on the attack and we don’t need that." Maidan is the Ukrainian name for Independence Square.
Zakharchenko earlier said a third captured officer had been released and was in serious condition in a hospital.
"We will consider those who remain on the Maidan and in captured buildings to be extremist groups. In the event that danger arises, and radicals go into action, we will be obliged to use force," Zakharchenko said.
In the city of Lviv, where support for Yanukovych is minuscule, regional lawmakers on Saturday voted to establish a parallel government. Although the move was largely symbolic, it demonstrated the strong animosity toward the government in Ukraine’s west. Ukrainian politics largely is divided between the Russian-speaking east, which is the industrial heartland, and the Ukrainian-speaking west.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pressed hard to keep Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, in his nation’s political and economic orbit, but more Ukrainians favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU than a new alliance with Russia.
On Saturday, about 100 protesters briefly occupied the headquarters of the energy ministry in downtown Kiev. Minister Eduard Stavitskiy said the country’s nuclear energy facilities were placed on high alert.
Yuras Karmanau in Kiev and Laura Mills in Lviv contributed to this story.