Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych returned to work on Monday after four days of sick leave, issuing a warning about rising “radicalism” after more than two months of unrest on the streets but giving no word on a new prime minister.
Yanukovych, caught in a tug of war between Russia and the West, is seeking a way out of a sometimes violent confrontation with protesters who have occupied city streets and public buildings following his decision in November to spurn a trade deal with the EU and accept financial aid from Moscow. As he returned to work, the political opposition took heart from fresh expressions of support from Western governments and pressed for more concessions to end protests.
The EU played down suggestions it was working with the United States on a large-scale aid package aimed at nursing the economy through a political transition. Russia has suspended its financial support until it sees how a new government will handle relations with Moscow.
Yanukovych confined himself, in his first public appearance since Wednesday, to warning against the actions of protesters.
“We must say no to extremism, radicalism, the fanning of enmity in society,” he said on video.
On the barricades close to the Kiev parliament building, where riot police and armed militants face off across 20 meters of no man’s land, his words carry no weight. “We’re staying here until Yanukovych is gone,” said a 28-year-old masked opposition protester named Dima.