A top European Union official has called on Ukrainian leaders and the opposition to take urgent measures to form a coalition government as a way out a nearly three-month-long political crisis.
Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele told reporters in Kyiv on February 13 that he has called on the two sides to agree on constitutional reform that would trim presidential powers and bolster the authority of parliament.
"From my conversations here I get that there is a need -- one -- to take urgent steps on constitutional reforms, [the] formation of the new inclusive government, and ensuring free and fair elections," he said.
Fuele also warned authorities against harassing protesters. He said it was hard to win the trust of the demonstrators as things currently stand.
"I stress also that Ukraine needs more security and no impunity," he said. "It needs respect and protection for rights and freedoms, end of intimidation and harassment, quick and transparent investigations of acts of violence. And let me add also that it's strange -- that's one of the findings from my visit to a hospital -- strange and unacceptable that injured [people] are brought to hospitals by police and not by ambulances."
Fuele arrived in Kyiv on February 11 for talks with President Viktor Yanukovych, opposition leaders, and members of civil society in a bid to help defuse the standoff between authorities and antigovernment protesters.
At a press conference in Kyiv on February 13, opposition leaders reiterated that they would not take part in any government while Yanukovych remains in power.
As part of a compromise, Yanukovych had offered opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the post of prime minister.
Yatsenyuk has turned down the offer and he restated his position on February 13.
"As for the position of prime minister, there is no need to try to bribe the opposition with positions in the government," he said. "Our stance is as follows: we do not accept the position of prime minister; we will only accept the full responsibility for the state of things in the country, which presumes the formation of an entire cabinet of ministers."
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned in an article in the Russian daily "Kommersant"on February 13 that outside attempts to influence Ukraine's future will end "in failure."
Protesters have been demonstrating against President Viktor Yanukovych's government since November, when he backed away from a key deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.
In a separate development, assailants threw a bright green antiseptic solution on Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his deputy, Oleksandr Turchynov, as they visited former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a hospital in Kharkiv on February 12.
One of the attackers escaped, and one was apprehended by police.
Yatsenyuk, the chairman of Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) faction, had held talks with Tymoshenko, who has been jailed on abuse-of-office charges widely seen as politically motivated.
Tymoshenko is undergoing treatment for back pain.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Interfax