Ukraine Minister Says Talks With Protesters Are 'Futile'
Anti-government protesters in Ukraine seized city hall in the capital, Kiev, as the country's interior minister said two months of efforts to resolve the unrest had been "futile."
Police warned that they might storm the administration building to free two officers they say were captured by demonstrators. Russia Today says three officers were seized and that one of them had been released and hospitalized with a stab wound.
NPR's Corey Flintoff, reporting from Kiev, says that overnight protesters re-lit fires at barricades near government buildings in the capital, sending up columns of black smoke.
"They've been throwing rocks and firebombs at riot police, who have been responding with tear gas and stun grenades," Corey says.
The BBC reports:
"[Interior] Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said negotiations with the protesters had failed. He blamed 'radical groups' for the unrest, adding protesters had arms."
"The comments came as activists tried to seize the energy ministry."
"Four protesters and a policeman are reported to have died in protests that began last year after the government's rejection of a treaty with the EU."
Zakharchenko said that other countries "must not close their eyes" to rising extremism in Ukraine.
As The Two-Way's Mark Memmott reported earlier, the unrest comes despite a "fragile truce" that's supposed to be in place between the government and demonstrators.
The protesters are angry at the government's decision to forego closer ties with the EU in favor of closer relations with Moscow, which ruled Ukraine with an iron fist until 1991, when Kiev won independence as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Corey reports that President Viktor Yanukovych had promised to release some activists from jail and to revise a new law that bans most forms of protest, but the opposition accuses him of stalling for time and ignoring their demands for his resignation.
Demonstrators have taken over government buildings in more than a dozen cities in western Ukraine.
The Associated Press reports that protesters seized the headquarters of the energy ministry, but abandoned it hours later.
According to the AP:
"In Vinnitsya, about 180 kilometers (110 miles) southwest of Kiev, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the local administration building, Ukrainian news agencies said. Until the past week, the protests had been centered in Kiev with only smaller demonstrations elsewhere, but since the Kiev clashes began on Sunday, a score of local government buildings have been seized in the country's west, where support for President Yanukovych is thin."
Update at 2:00 p.m. ET: Yanukovych Promises To 'Fire' Cabinet To End Standoff:
"At a meeting with the heads of the three main opposition parties, Mr. Yanukovych offered to fire his government if one of the leaders, former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, accepts the post of prime minister, Justice Minister Olena Lukash said after talks. Another opposition leader, boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko, could become deputy prime minister for humanitarian affairs, Ms. Lukash said."
"The offer Saturday came after two months of protests turned violent in recent days, with at least three deaths on the side of protesters amid a brutal police crackdown. Demonstrations started in November when the president shelved a European Union integration pact in favor of closer ties with Russia. Protesters currently hold Kiev's central square and roads leading to it, a ministry and a local government building."
"Opposition leaders were discussing the offer, two of their top aides said."