New Clashes as Ukraine’s President Tries to Tempt Opposition

(Reuters) -

Police clashed with protesters in central Kiev on Sunday and the fate of Ukraine’s government was uncertain after embattled President Viktor Yanukovych offered important posts to opposition leaders, including the role of prime minister.

One of the president’s main foes described his offer as a “poisoned” attempt to divide the opposition and kill off mass protests. The demonstrations erupted late last year when Yanukovych ditched landmark agreements with the European Union and opted for closer ties with Russia.

Emboldened opposition leaders said they would press for more concessions, including early elections, setting the stage for a political battle when parliament meets for a special session on Tuesday.

The two-month standoff has sparked the worst violence in Ukraine since it won independence in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed. At least six people have been killed, according to the prosecutor’s office and medics, and the crisis has deepened tension between Russia and the West.

For the opposition, accepting Yanukovych’s offer to serve under him in a revamped government carries the risk of breaking faith with thousands of peaceful demonstrators as well as alienating more radical protesters over whom it has only tenuous control.

“Yanukovych’s offer … appeared as a poison chalice for the opposition — meant to divide the opposition and boost his chances in the March 2015 presidential election,” Tim Ash of Standard Bank said.