Opposition Optimistic in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -
Protesters aim fireworks at police during clashes, in central Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday. The chances of ending the violence that has convulsed the Ukrainian capital are high. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Protesters aim fireworks at police during clashes, in central Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday. The chances of ending the violence that has convulsed the Ukrainian capital are high. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

The chances of ending the violence that has convulsed the Ukrainian capital are high, a spokeswoman for a top opposition leader said late Thursday after a meeting with the president.

Olha Lappo, a spokeswoman for Arseniy Yatsenyuk, made the statement Thursday after an hours-long meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych. That came after opposition leaders gave a Thursday evening deadline to make concessions or face renewed clashes.

She did not provide details, but the assessment appeared to be the first sign of progress in resolving the two-month crisis that is threatening to spread well beyond Kiev.

However, some protesters were resistant on Thursday night. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, one of those who met with Yanukovych, went to the site of clashes to try to persuade demonstrators to hold to an uneasy truce, but was booed and some cried, “Shame!”

The clash site is a few hundred yards away from the protester tent camp on Independence Square, where around-the-clock demonstrations have been held since early December.

At least two people were killed by gunfire at the clash site on Wednesday. Demonstrators had pelted riot police with barrages of stones and set police buses on fire, while the officers responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

Enraged protesters stormed government offices in three western Ukraine cities Thursday, forcing one governor to write a letter of resignation, as demonstrations intensified outside Kiev.

The president called a special session of parliament next week to discuss the tensions, telling the parliament speaker: “The situation demands an urgent settlement.” But there was no indication that the move represented a compromise; the president’s backers hold a majority of seats.

The protests began after Yanukovych turned away from closer ties with the EU in favor of getting a bailout loan from Russia. They turned violent this week after he pushed through harsh anti-protest laws, rejecting protesters’ demands that he resign and call new elections.

Support for Yanukovych is non-existent in western Ukraine and most residents want closer ties to the 28-nation EU.

Meanwhile, anger spread after a video was released online appearing to show police abusing and humiliating a protester.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement, apologizing “for the impermissible actions of people wearing police uniforms” and launched an investigation into the incident.