Ukraine's leader to crush riots using 'all legal means'
ANTI-government demonstrators have expanded their protests across Ukraine, storming regional government offices as the country's increasingly besieged president vowed to use "all legal means" to end the violence on the streets.
Activists reportedly seized the government office in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk. Last night, they were said to be storming another office in Chernivtsi near the border with Romania and Moldova.
Further protests were staged on Lutsk, in the north-west, and Sumy, in the east. The crisis escalated this week when the first deaths of activists were confirmed. Yuri Verbytsky, from Lviv, was found dead in a forest outside Kiev after reportedly being abducted, tortured and left to die in the snow on Wednesday.
Later that day, two protesters were shot by what the opposition claimed were military snipers during rioting in Hrushevskyy Street, near Kiev's Independence Square. Officials strongly deny any involvement in the deaths.
As the violence and disorder spread yesterday, President Viktor Yanukovych promised to reshuffle his government, free scores of protesters from jail and make other concessions. At a meeting with religious leaders, he vowed that a special parliament meeting on Tuesday would push through changes to his cabinet, grant amnesty to dozens of jailed activists who were not guilty of serious crimes and would modify harsh anti-protest legislation.
In Kiev, the fragile truce between demonstrators and the military continued. Thousands of protesters behind makeshift barricades kept confronting riot police but did not resort to violence. Protesters were said to have been armed with plywood shields, firebombs, firecrackers and fireworks. Meanwhile, pro-opposition websites alleged that police were wrapping stun grenades with nails and pieces of metal to inflict injuries.
Some protesters erected a mock tribunal with an effigy of Mr Yanukovych in a striped inmate's uniform, sitting in a cage with his arms and neck tied to the metal bars.
The unrest began in late November after Mr Yanukovych decided to shelve a long-anticipated economic agreement with the 28-nation EU and receive a bailout from Russia instead.