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Friday 29 August 2014

Ukraine 'on brink of civil war', as efforts to quell protest fail

David Blair in Kiev

Published 30/01/2014 | 02:30

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Anti-government groups at religious service in Kiev. President Yanukovych has taken a number of measures to try to appease the protesters. Photo: Thomas Peter

UKRAINE'S president failed to defuse the confrontation in central Kiev yesterday when more protests took place, despite his sweeping concessions and a former leader warned of "civil war".

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An overnight snowfall allowed volunteers to pile new bags on the barricades.

They also staged an impromptu football match in European Square, once a hub of the capital, now inside the area occupied by demonstrators.

After President Viktor Yanukovych dismissed his government and repealed nine security laws, parliament debated whether to make yet another concession by offering the protesters an amnesty.

Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of Ukraine after the country won independence in 1991, told the session: "All the world acknowledges – and Ukraine acknowledges – that the state is on the brink of civil war."

Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said she was shocked by the unrest.

Speaking in Kiev after a meeting with Mr Yanukovych, Baroness Ashton urged an end to "the violence and intimidation, wherever it comes from".

The government is now negotiating continuously with the opposition leadership in parliament. They differ over the vital question of whether the proposed amnesty should be unconditional, or dependent on the protesters vacating public buildings and clearing their barricades.

But the protest movement and the mainstream opposition are themselves divided.

Yesterday, activists from the nationalist Svoboda party forcibly evicted members of the more radical Spilna Sprava group from the agriculture ministry.

The absence of a united command of the protest movement means that any agreement to leave public buildings would be resisted.

"We want the present system to be destroyed and we want the president to go," said Andrei Chaika, a 41-year-old philosophy lecturer at a Kiev university. "We will continue the protests until the president goes. He's responsible for everything that happens in Ukraine." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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