UKRAINIAN PROTESTERS OCCUPY GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS – PRESIDENT UNDER INCREASED PRESSURE

Fox News on January 24, 2014, reported that protesters have erected new barricades and seized a government building in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev while also maintaining the siege of several governors’ offices in the country’s west, raising the pressure on the government after a critical meeting with the president.

After meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych, opposition leaders told the crowds that he has promised to ensure the release of dozens of protesters detained after clashes with police and stop further detentions. They urged the protesters to maintain a shaky truce following violent street battles in the capital,…

…some protesters were still resistant. Early Friday, the protesters broke into the downtown building of the Ministry of Agricultural Policy, meeting no resistance.

On January 23, demonstrators again set aflame barricades of tires that had been quenched when opposition leaders offered the deadline.

The clash site is a few hundred yards away from the protester tent camp on Independence Square, where around-the-clock demonstrations have been held since early December.

At least two people were killed by gunfire at the clash site on Wednesday. Demonstrators had pelted riot police with barrages of stones and set police buses on fire, while the officers responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

Enraged protesters stormed government offices in three western Ukraine cities on January 23, forcing one governor to write a letter of resignation, as demonstrations intensified outside Kiev.

The president called a special session of parliament next week to discuss the tensions, telling the parliament speaker: “The situation demands an urgent settlement.” But there was no indication that the move represented a compromise, since the president’s backers hold a majority of seats.

Support for Yanukovych is virtually non-existent in western Ukraine and most residents want closer ties to the 28-nation EU.

In Lviv, a city in near the Polish border 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Kiev, hundreds of activists burst Thursday into the office of regional governor Oleh Salo, a Yanukovych appointee, shouting “Revolution!” and singing Christmas carols.

After surrounding him and forcing him to sign a resignation letter, an activist ripped it out of Salo’s hands and lifted it up to the cheers and applause of the crowd. Salo later retracted his signature, saying he had been coerced.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters smashed windows, broke doors and stormed into the governor’s office in the city of Rivne, shouting “Down with the gang!” — a common reference to Yanukovych’s government. Once inside, they sang the national anthem.

Angry crowds also besieged government offices in other western regions.

Meanwhile, anger spread after a video was released online appearing to show police abusing and humiliating a naked protester in what looked like a location close to the site of the Kiev clashes.

In the video, a young man, his body covered in multiple bruises, wearing nothing but socks, is made to stand on the snow in freezing temperatures, while a policeman punches him in the head and others force him to pose for photos.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement, apologizing “for the impermissible actions of people wearing police uniforms” and launched an investigation into the incident.

The opposition maintains that as many as five people died in the clashes, but say they have no evidence as the bodies were removed by authorities.

The Interior Ministry said Thursday that 73 people have been detained, 52 of whom are being investigated for “mass riots” — a new criminal charge that carries a prison sentence of up to eight years.

The United States has revoked the visas of Ukrainian officials linked to violence and threatened more sanctions. …it welcomed Yanukovych’s face-to-face talks with the opposition as a “necessary first step toward resolving this crisis.”

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said January 23 that if the situation in Ukraine does not stabilize, the EU “would assess possible consequences in its relationship.” Barroso also said he had received assurances from Yanukovych that the Ukrainian leader did not foresee the need to impose a state of emergency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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