Both President Viktor Yanukovch and the opposition political leaders delegated representatives to peace talks that kicked off on Jan. 20 to solve the longest and fiercest political crisis in Ukraine’s history.
The president assigned Andriy Klyuyev, head of the National Security and Defense Council, to find a solution to the national crisis as violent clashes between radical protesters and the police entered into their second day.
Throughout the day, hundreds of protesters continued to throw Molotov cocktails and cobblestones at thousands of police troops stationed on Hrushevsky Street in the center of Kyiv, where the main government building is located.
But opposition politicians and others fear Klyuyev’s appointment as chief negotiator will poison the whole idea of negotiations, since he is believed to have been a key figure in at least one violent dispersal of a peaceful demonstration on Nov. 30, although his deputy is the one who faces police charges.
“I don’t think the president has any political will to negotiate,” said Olesya Orobets, a member of parliament with the opposition Batkivshchyna Party.
Yanukovych seemed to back that assessment by publicly suggesting on Jan. 20 that a police crackdown on EuroMaidan demonstrators is likely. “I will apply all effort to ensure public order, defend the rights of peaceful citizens and will use all legal and other means envisages by the laws of Ukraine and other measures to guarantee civic peace and security of all our compatriots,” Yanukovych said.
Nevertheless, the opposition decided to proceed with the talks. Each of the three leaders sent representatives to work on their behalf. Arseniy Yatseniuk of Batkivshchyna chose Oleksandr Turchynov. Oleh Tiahnybok of the Svoboda Party will sent Ruslan Koshulynsky. Vitali Klitschko of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform will be representated by Vitaly Kovalchuk.
The opposition had a long list of demands, topped by the requirement to pull police from the streets of the capital.
The opposition also wants the government to free all those detained during the protests, which have been raging in the country for nearly three months, including 19 people who were detained during clashes in the past 24 hours, according to Oksana Prodan, a lawmaker from Klitschko’s UDAR.
Another demand is to reverse a package of laws approved on Dec. 16 by the pro-presidential majority in parliament and aimed at cracking down at the protesters, activists, journalists and bloggers in the country.
Mykhailo Pogrebynskiy, a political consultant close to the government, said that reversal of the laws could potentially be a concession, but the president showed no sign that he would take the advice.
The opposition said that two official government-sponsored papers, Holos Urainy and Uryadovyi Kurier, have printed the text of the law in theirJan. 21 additions, which would fully enact the legislation.
“There is a printed run of papers for tomorrow, and a number of deputies are trying to stop it from being shipped (to newsstands),” said Yuriy Syrotiuk, the spokesman for Svoboda Party.
The opposition also has longer-ranging demands, such as the return to the previous constitution that would curb presidential powers. They want the government dismissed and anyone punished who played a part in the crackdowns on peaceful protests in November and December.
Klyuyev’s spokesman Artyom Petrenko said there will be no comment on any issues until the meeting ends and agreements are achieved.
But observers say there is next to no chance for major achievements.
“I think the president (wanted) to disrupt the talks and blame the opposition,” said Kost Bondarenko, a political consultant.