UK & World News

  • 13 December 2013, 12:34

Ukraine Opposition Leader Agrees To Talks

Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitschko has agreed to meet President Viktor Yanukovych.

The announcement by the former boxing champion's party raises hopes of an end to the crisis which has gripped theeastern European country for days.

Mr Klitschko has been a visible presence at protests in Kiev in recent weeks which has seen clashes between thousands of demonstrators and riot police over Ukraine's possible closer links with the EU, which the opposition wants but the government has been resisting.

He told protesters on Independence Square that he, nationalist leader Oleg Tyagnybok and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the head of the party of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, would be attending the talks.

"We have the impression that he (Yanukovych) is not listening to us, maybe his television is not working, maybe he is not being given the information," the boxer turned politician said.

"We want to look him in the eye and say our main demands and hear the answer," he said.

President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign the agreement for closer ties set off the protests - his deputy said the government intended to sign it but there were issues that still needed to be worked out.

"Today we're renewing preparations for the signing of an agreement," deputy PM Sergiy Arbuzov said on Thursday after talks with EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fuele.

Opposition parties accuse the government of bowing to pressure from Russia's President Putin who, they say, is against Ukraine getting close to the EU.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian court has released all those arrested during a violent police dispersal of demonstrators near the presidential administration building, one of the demands of the opposition that has conducted three weeks of large protests.

An appeals court spokeswoman, Olga Chaplya, said the last of nine people arrested in the December 1 clash has been released, although the criminal cases against them continue.

The opposition had set the releases as a condition for entering talks with the government.

Experts had earlier said time was running out for Mr Yanukovych to make a decision on a future direction for his politically volatile nation, which is split between a Ukrainian-speaking, pro-EU west and a Russian-speaking, Moscow-leaning east.

His choices are to either sign a deal with the EU that would put his ex-Soviet nation on track to eventually joining the bloc, or join a Moscow-led Customs Union, which Russia sees as a future alternative to the EU.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.