Yanukovych Seeks Compromise in Next Week’s Parliamentary Session, While MPs Charge Foreign-backed Opposition Is Going for Broke

Meeting with Ukrainian Church leaders on Friday, the country’s President Victor Yanukovych said that he was prepared to make changes in the government and to sign amendments to the Jan. 16 law regulating demonstrations, when the Supreme Rada (Parliament) convenes next Tuesday, Jan. 28. He said that the amendments are being drafted: “Together with the opposition, we are preparing compromise solutions. We shall vote for amendments to these laws and remove these issues. … We shall go together to Parliament with the opposition and vote.” At the same time, Yanukovych warned, “I will do everything to stop this conflict, to stop violence and establish stability. Certainly, to stop radicals. If we manage to stop them amicably, we will stop them amicably. Otherwise we will use all legal methods provided for by the laws of Ukraine.”

Opposition figures continued to issue statements that Yanukovych is not making enough concessions. Both Vitali Klitschko and Arseni Yatsenyuk, leaders of two Rada opposition parties, said that international intermediaries would have to come in. In Davos, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov also said that if Switzerland, the current chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were to offer help “in normalizing the situation,” Kiev would not reject this.

On Hrushevsky Street in Kiev, where the Supreme Rada building is located, militants built new barricades. Thursday night they booed Klitschko when he came to report on the negotiations. Russian TV street interviews included people saying, “We don’t need any compromises, we need a change of the regime.” On Friday the insurgents seized the Ministry of Agriculture building on Kreshchatik Street, telling reporters that they needed it as a place to keep warm and also because “we’re making a revolution: we’re going to take all the buildings — the Presidential Administration, the Rada.” In several more cities in western and southern Ukraine, regional government buildings were seized by organized bands.

Party of Regions MP Oleh Tsaryov, who some weeks ago accused the U.S. Embassy of sponsoring social-networking training sessions for the opposition over this past summer, has made new charges, including during an appearance on a rowdy Channel One Russia talk show Jan. 22 where he emphasized that the insurgents clearly have had “careful and professional training.” On Friday Tsaryov posted on Facebook that members of the Russian State Duma “with ties to Syrian intelligence” had informed him that 350 Ukrainian mercenaries who had been fighting against the Syrian government last year returned to Ukraine shortly before the Hrushevsky Street escalation on Jan. 19. According to Interfax-Ukraine, Yanukovych also spoke of “foreign fighters on Hrushevsky Street,” during his meeting with the churchmen. Tsaryov charged that the insurgents had designs to “take over” the nuclear power plant in Rivne, as a pretext for a NATO intervention in Ukraine; Polit.ru and other media cited denials by the NPP operators that they had been “taken over,” but Tsaryov said that he was referring to threats and pressure on Rivne NPP workers and their families, to allow outside individuals onto the site. During the Channel One program, Tsaryov said that what’s going on is “a war against Russia,” waged from the West on Ukrainian soil.

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