Ukraine’s opposition lays out plan to end crisis
Russia denounces EU and US support for protesters
Anti-government protesters at a rally in Independence Square in Kiev yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
Ukraine’s opposition leaders have presented a “roadmap” to resolve its crisis, amid sharp exchanges between Russia and the West over the turmoil in the country.
“Ukraine desperately needs a Marshall Plan and not martial law,” said liberal party chief Arseniy Yatsenyuk, referring to US aid given to western Europe after the second World War.
He called for an end to violence in Ukraine; the release of all those arrested during protests; an investigation – with western help – into all recent “kidnappings, beatings, torture and murders” of activists; and constitutional reform to transfer many of president Viktor Yanukovich’s “dictatorial” powers to government and parliament.
When a new constitution was in place, Mr Yatsenyuk said, the opposition would be ready to take up Mr Yanukovich’s offer to form a new government and hold “free and transparent elections”.
Ukraine also urgently needs at least $15 billion (€11.1 billion) in aid from the EU and IMF, he added. “We mean the Ukrainian people – not a penny must go to the Yanukovich regime,” Mr Yatsenyuk told tens of thousands of people on Kiev’s Independence Square yesterday.
At meetings with senior US and EU diplomats at a Munich security conference at the weekend, opposition leaders also requested western mediation in talks with Mr Yanukovich.
Ukrainian and Russian officials previously rejected calls for mediation in a crisis that began in November, when Mr Yanukovich postponed entering a landmark pact with the EU in favour of closer ties and financial help from Moscow. Protests have now spread to regions where Mr Yanukovich and his Regions Party traditionally enjoy solid support. Those taking part are demanding the president’s resignation and a complete overhaul of the way the corruption-riddled country of 46 million people is run.
In southern and eastern regions where government control is still strong, officials characterise protesters as “extremists” and “fascists” who are being paid and directed by western powers to cause chaos in Ukraine and wreck its relations with Russia.
“What does incitement of increasingly violent street protests have to do with promoting democracy?” Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said in Munich. “Why don’t we hear condemnation of those who seize and hold government buildings, attack the police, torture police, use racist and anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans?”
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said at the same conference: “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine . . . The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight.”
Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, said: “The future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union.” Activist Dmytro Bulatov, who claims to have been kidnapped for eight days and tortured by men with “Russian accents”, was expected to go to Latvia for treatment last night.
Ukrainian police suggested his story may be false. Foreign minister Leonid Kozhara said Mr Bulatov was “in good condition, and the only thing he has is a scratch on one of his cheeks”.
Mr Yanukovich (63) is due to return to work today, after going on sick leave on Thursday.