Ukraine president mulls early elections

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KIEV: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych could call early elections if he cannot strike a deal with the opposition, a top lawmaker said on Tuesday ahead of a parliament session where protest leaders will press for concessions.

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Yuriy Miroshnychenko, Yanukovych’s personal representative in parliament, said the president has spoken at a meeting with lawmakers last week of “two possible scenarios” to end a two-month crisis.

“The first is the release of occupied buildings and an amnesty and the second is early elections. The amnesty is not working out,” said Miroshnychenko, referring to the release of detained protesters.

The opposition wants protesters freed unconditionally, while Yanukovych and his ruling Regions Party say this can only happen if occupied buildings including ministries and regional government offices are vacated within the next few days.

Miroshnychenko spoke just hours before the arrival of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and as parliament met to discuss opposition demands, including a constitutional overhaul to curb presidential powers.

On Monday, Yanukovych blasted the mass protests against his rule as “extremism,” as the European Union and United States discussed possible economic aid to help end the country’s deep political crisis.

Returning to work after four days of sick leave on Monday, Yanukovych slammed the anti-government movement as “radicalism and incitement to hatred behind which there is a struggle for power.”

He also appeared to link militants to Nazis, calling for “a community of wholesome people without the Nazism, racism and xenophobia that remind us of the terrible lessons of history” in his first public comments since Thursday.

The mass protests have set off sparks between Russia and the West and claimed the lives of at least two protesters and two policemen.

AFP

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