Ukraine president offers top posts to opposition in bid to end strife

KIEV. Ukraine -- In a desperate bid to stop the violence in Kiev and to keep his job, embattled Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich offered the prime minister's job late Saturday to opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk.

The president also offered the position of deputy premier for humanitarian issues to another opposition leader, former world heavy weight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko.

The announcement was made to reporters by a Yanukovich aide after a long day of talks with the opposition leadership and amid renewed clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police in downtown Kiev.

It was not immediately clear whether the opposition leaders would accept the proposal. A package of measures proposed by the president also included the removal of protesters from the street and a halt to their demonstrations, including the return of all government premises captured by the opposition in the last two months in Kiev and across the country.

Since the opposition has demanded new presidential and parliamentary elections as well as the resignation of the government, the sudden announcement Saturday appears to be a compromise offer as protests have started to spread to other cities and towns across the country.

“In case [Yatsenyuk] agrees to take the prime minister's position, the president of Ukraine will order the sacking of the Cabinet,” Yelena Lukash, the justice minister, told reporters Saturday night. “Ukraine's president is convinced that the joint work with the opposition can help the state to unite and carry out reforms necessary for the state and the society.”

The negotiations will continue until the sides reach agreement, she said.

Yatsenyuk, a 39-year-old economist and lawyer, started his political career as Crimea's economy minister in 2001, and then as Ukraine's parliament speaker and foreign minister.

Yatsenyuk, currently an opposition lawmaker and a staunch ally of jailed premier Julia Tymoshenko,  has been one of three leaders of the opposition along with Klitschko and Oleg Tyagnybok. They have led anti-government protests since Yanukovich refrained from signing an association agreement with the European Union last November.

Yanukovich's offer came as clashes between protesters and riot police resumed with new force after two days of relative lull.

On Saturday afternoon, police threw a couple of stun grenades toward protesters standing on top of charred and icy barricades in Grushevsky street. The demonstrators responded with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

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