11 December 2013
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych held talks with western envoys and local public figures Tuesday to solve the country's political crisis, as pro-European protests continued to grip the capital.
During the round table talks with his three predecessors -- Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko, Yanukovych promised to further Ukraine's European integration efforts.
"Our goal is to obtain conditions that would satisfy Ukrainian producers and would create the conditions for the development of our country," he said.
Yanukovych has said Kiev had to suspend partnership deals with the European Union (EU) to avoid financial losses in the current trade and economic circumstances.
The president pledged that, before the next Eastern Partnership Summit in March 2014, Kiev would undertake work to minimize the economic risks of its European integration.
Yanukovych also promised to find legal instruments to release from custody nine demonstrators, who were arrested on Dec. 1 during clashes between police and protesters.
Opposition leaders, who were expected to participate in the talks, failed to show up, claiming they were not invited to the meeting.
Earlier this week, Arseny Yatsenyuk, a key opposition leader, said opposition forces would not sit down for talks with authorities until the president dismissed the government.
Protests in Ukraine began 20 days ago, starting as peaceful demonstrations backing the country's European integration, but soon snowballing into a violent nationwide movement against authorities.
Ukraine was expected to sign partnership agreements with the EU at the Eastern Partnership Summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius last month, but put the deal on hold for closer trade ties with Russia instead.
The announcement triggered waves of protests in major Ukrainian cities. Furious about both the government's decision and the violent dispersion of earlier demonstrations, protesters now demand the impeachment of Yanukovych, resignation of the government and disbandment of parliament.