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Ukraine To Send Delegations To Moscow, Brussels; MPs Reject No-Confidence Vote

Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration in front of the parliament building in Kyiv on December 3.
Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration in front of the parliament building in Kyiv on December 3.

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By RFE/RL
Ukraine's prime minister says the government is sending official delegations to Moscow and Brussels amid ongoing antigovernment demonstrations.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov announced the visits for the following day on Ukrainian television late on December 3.

He said the delegation going to Brussels would discuss the "possibility of signing an agreement on European integration on conditions that are favorable for Ukraine."

The delegation traveling to Moscow will discuss "strengthening our strategic partnership" with Russia.

Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, could not confirm the arrival of a Ukrainian delegation in Brussels.

"The date and place still should be agreed upon through diplomatic channels and when such an agreement will be reached, it [a meeting with the Ukrainian delegation] will be announced," Kocijancic said.

Azarov's statements came hours after the Ukrainian parliament rejected a no-confidence vote against the government.

The motion, initiated by the opposition, received 186 of the 226 votes necessary to pass. As expected, the ruling Party of Regions did not support the motion and did not vote.

The opposition sought the government's resignation after President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement on closer ties with the European Union.

That decision sparked the biggest protests in Ukraine since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Thousands of protesters who had gathered outside the parliament building on December 3 greeted the result of the vote with shouts of "Shame!" and "Revolution!"

Before the vote, Azarov apologized for a brutal police crackdown on weekend protests. He also promised to reshuffle his government.

The opposition has vowed to continue the protests. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna faction, said the opposition will also ask Yanukovych to fire the cabinet. He also urged supporters to picket the presidential administration building.

The opposition holds 170 seats in parliament, and independents control another 35 in the 450-seat body. Prior to the vote, the ruling Party of Regions was losing some support. At least three of its parliament deputies have quit over the government's handling of the crisis.

One of them, Inna Bohoslovska, a former vocal supporter of Yanukovych, on December 2 urged other legislators to leave the party.

In the western cities of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil, officials on December 2 announced they were going on strike and called on residents to join the protests.

READ MORE: Who's Who In 'EuroMaydan' Protests

Support for closer ties with Europe is stronger in Ukraine's west, while the east of the country looks more to Moscow.

WATCH: Thousands of Ukrainian protesters outside the parliament building in Kyiv chanted, "Police -- with the people!" and "Down with the gang!"
Protesters Outside Ukrainian Parliament Demand Government Resignationi
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December 03, 2013
Thousands of Ukrainian protesters demonstrated outside the parliament building in Kyiv as opposition lawmakers sought the government's resignation in response to President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign an agreement on closer ties with the European Union. The demonstrators chanted, "Police -- with the people!" and "Down with the gang!"

Despite growing problems at home, Yanukovych departed on December 3 for China, where he will be seeking much-needed financial aid.

Yanukovych: All Must Obey The Law

On December 2, Yanukovych called European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and asked to renew negotiations on the Association Agreement.

In a television interview, Yanukovych acknowledged the rights of protesters to "speak their minds" but emphasized that the rallies must be peaceful.

"In such cases, it is important, of course, when we say that we are building a democratic state, a democratic society, that all participants -- we all are citizens of this country, members of this society and processes that take place within it -- adhere to the law," Yanukovych said.

"And it doesn't matter, if these are representatives of the government, law enforcement agencies, or the participants in the rallies -- all must, mandatorily, respect the law."

LIVE STREAM (in Ukrainian): RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service broadcasting from the Kyiv protest

Yanukovych also told Ukrainian media that he remained committed to European integration, but that he wanted to negotiate better terms.

Azarov took a similar tack on television, saying, "We want to provide work for [workers in] our machine-building, aerospace, airplane-building, and pipe manufacturing industries."

Through a spokesman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated that Berlin and Brussels were ready to sign the Association Agreement, saying the protests prove that Ukrainians want the EU deal.

But Ukrainian Prime Minister Azarov said the protests in Kyiv and elsewhere had "all the signs of a state coup."

Azarov said the government knew of plans to seize the parliament building in Kyiv.

"People are being directed to capture government buildings to block the work of government institutions, to put forward ultimatums," he said. "This path leads nowhere."

The White House, however, said Washington did not "consider peaceful demonstrations coup attempts."

Jay Carney added that while a police crackdown on demonstrators in Kyiv on November 30 was "unacceptable," the police had been more restrained since.

"We continue to support the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to achieve a prosperous European democracy. European integration is the surest force for economic growth and to strengthening Ukraine's democracy," Carney told reporters in Washington on December 2.

ALSO READ: Protests Highlight 'Generational Rift'

On a visit to Armenia on December 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the protests in Ukraine seemed "more like a pogrom than a revolution."

The Kremlin wants Ukraine to join a Russian-led customs union, rather than seek closer ties to Brussels.

At the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged dialogue between the government and the opposition and urged both sides to "act with restraint" to avoid further bloodshed.

NATO foreign ministers released a statement on December 3 urging restraint that was subsequently echoed by the military alliance's secretary-general.

"We condemn the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators in Ukraine," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said of the situation in Ukraine. "We call on all parties to refrain from provocations and violence. We urge Ukraine as the holder of the Chairmanship in Office of the OSCE [Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe] to fully abide by its international commitments and to uphold the freedom of expression and assembly. We urge the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue and launch a reform process."

In a statement on December 3, the president of the OSCE's Parliamentary Assembly, Ranko Krivokapic, voiced concern over the situation in Ukraine and urged restraint. OSCE foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Kyiv this week.

Protesters on December 2 blocked access to the government headquarters, while others continued to occupy city hall and the central trade unions' building.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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