Ukrainian Leader Urges Dialogue After Street Battles

(Reuters) —

President Viktor Yanukovich, reeling from the worst violence for decades in the Ukrainian capital, appealed for compromise on Monday as police and demonstrators clashed again in the streets.

Yanukovich is battling to reassert his authority after scores of people were injured in Kiev on Sunday in pitched battles between protesters and police that could seriously hurt his chances of re-election next year.

With tension still high, about 1,000 protesters confronted police on Monday near Kiev’s main government headquarters. Scores of mainly young people hurled projectiles at police throughout the day and ignored appeals to disperse.

After weeks of mass protests over Yanukovich’s decision to shun a trade pact with the European Union and turn instead towards Russia, demonstrators have been further enraged by sweeping laws rammed through parliament to curb public protest.

“I ask you not to join those who seek violence, who are trying to create a division between the state and society and who want to hurl the Ukrainian people into a pit of mass disorder,” Yanukovich said in an appeal on his website.

He called for “dialogue and compromise” to end the unrest. But he made no mention of possible concessions, nor did he refer to peace talks with the opposition which were to have got under way on Monday.

The opposition warned him not to use these as an effort to buy time, while boxer-turned politician Vitaly Klitschko, one of its leaders, insisted he wanted Yanukovich to take part personally in the talks. As of Monday evening it was unclear if and when talks would take place.

Up to now, Yanukovich has refused to yield to any of the opposition’s core demands to sack his government and the interior minister over heavy-handed police action against demonstrators in December.

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