Ukraine talks under way after violent clashes

Thursday’s truce came after days of violent clashes in Kiev that left three demonstrators killed [Reuters]

Kiev sees a break in violence as opposition and President Yanukovych hold talks aimed at resolving political crisis.

A tenuous truce between anti-government protesters and security forces held in Ukraine’s capital as the country’s opposition sat down for talks with President Viktor Yanukovych.

Thursday’s break in the violence came after days of clashes in Kiev that left three demonstrators killed.

Protesters extinguished burning barricades shielding them from the police after the three main opposition leaders urged their supporters late on Wednesday to refrain from violence for 24 hours until an ultimatum to Yanukovych expired on 8pm local time (1800GMT).

The protesters have demanded that the president dismiss the government, call early elections, and scrap harsh anti-protest legislation that triggered the violence.

Vitali Klitschko, world boxing champion and opposition UDAR (Punch) party leader, said that Yanukovych should start by releasing any protesters who have been detained.

“We are demonstrating our willingness to find a compromise, but the government needs to make its step in turn,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Earlier, a statement by the country’s presidency said that Yanukovych had demanded an extraordinary session of parliament to ease the crisis.

Speaker Volodymyr Rybak said parliament would discuss the protesters’ demands for the government’s resignation and the annulment of a controversial anti-protest law at a session expected next week.

But he did not mention early presidential elections, a key opposition demand.

Two-month rally

The country has been gripped by protests since Yanukovych rejected a deal with the European Union in November and instead signed a pact with Russia.

For the past two nights, demonstrators and police have been clashing in Kiev’s city centre.  Two of the dead on Wednesday died from gunshot wounds, while the third died in a fall from the top of a football stadium.

Their bodies were found before police moved to tear down protesters’ barricades near official buildings in central Kiev and chase demonstrators away.

Helmeted riot police moved in on hundreds of protesters, dismantling barricades, beating many with truncheons and firing shots at some


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