Former president: Ukraine on brink of civil war

2014-01-29 21:14
(Genya Savilov, AFP)

(Genya Savilov, AFP)

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Kiev - Ukraine's first post-independence president on Wednesday warned that the country was on the brink of civil war as parliament struggled to find an agreement on granting an amnesty to protesters arrested in the crisis.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his entire government resigned on Tuesday after weeks of protests that began when President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a key EU deal in favour of closer ties with Moscow in November.

The resignation of Azarov, a close ally of Yanukovych, was the biggest scalp claimed by the opposition after two months of protests. But none of the president's concessions have appeased protest leaders who vow to press on for his resignation.

Tensions in Kiev, which last week saw three activists shot dead in clashes between police and protesters, have calmed somewhat since negotiations between the government and the opposition gained traction.

But there still appears to be no easy way out of a crisis which will influence the future strategic orientation of the nation of 46 million people sandwiched between Russia and the EU.

With concern mounting that Ukraine could become mired in a long-lasting civil conflict, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and UN special envoy Robert Serry both held talks with Yanukovych on Wednesday.

"The negotiations between the authorities and the opposition should calm the situation," said Ukrainian political analyst Taras Berezovets, adding that the authorities had nonetheless still failed to rule out the use of force against protesters.

Urging deputies to come to an agreement on the amnesty issue, former president Leonid Kravchuk warned parliament that the country was "on the brink of civil war".

"It is a revolution. It is a dramatic situation in which we must act with the greatest responsibility," Kravchuk, president from 1991 to 1994, said to applause and a standing ovation.

"We need to ease the confrontation between the sides and agree a plan to solve the conflict," he added.

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