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Ukraine's Parliament Fails To Agree On Curbing Presidential Powers


The Ukrainian national flag flies above an antigovernment barricade that faces a cordon of riot police in Kyiv on February 3.
Ukraine's parliament has concluded a session without approving changes to the constitution that would have curtailed the powers of the president.

Opposition lawmakers on February 4 failed to get the necessary support to push through a motion to revert to an earlier version of the Ukrainian Constitution that limited presidential powers.

The opposition would have needed support from at least 237 of the 447 deputies in parliament to push through the motion.

Opposition UDAR party leader Vitali Klitschko met earlier on February 4 with President Viktor Yanukovych. After the meeting, Klitschko told journalists that he told Yanukovych, "tempers are heating up," and urged the president "to immediately make a decision."

Klitschko earlier told parliament such reform was needed to end the crisis that has persisted in the two months since the government turned its back on closer ties to the European Union.

"I'm convinced that if we don't do that, then the society will explode, and we will see their anger on the street," Klitschko said. "That's why I'm calling on everybody -- we should follow the civilized path, stop the dictatorship, return to the constitution that makes parliament deputies the decision-makers and not just those who press buttons."

The opposition wants a return to the constitution adopted in 2004 during the country's Orange Revolution.

Klitschko blamed President Viktor Yanukovych's administration for the unrest and warned against further escalating tensions.

RELATED: Ukraine's 'Thin Blue Line' In Focus As Protests Continue

Prior to the vote, Oleksandr Yefremov, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Party of Regions, sounded conciliatory.

"This is a dead end, and I therefore suggest that we all forget the grievances, victories, and defeats, our careers, and instead join efforts to work out the strategy of getting out of the current situation," he said.

But Yefremov also said Yanukovych had already made concessions by accepting last week the government's resignation, as well as agreeing to rescind controversial antiprotest legislation and to a conditional amnesty for detained protesters. The opposition has dismissed the moves as insufficient.

Yefremov dismissed reports that Yanukovych may call early presidential and parliamentary elections as a way out of the crisis.

A Yanukovych parliamentary ally also backed off his earlier comments that Yanukovych may call early elections if a peaceful resolution to the crisis cannot be found. Yuriy Miroshnychenko said on February 4 that "the issue of holding early elections is currently not on the agenda."

In Brussels on February 4, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton, commented on the possibility of early elections in Ukraine.

"What we have been saying very consistently is that we need to see a political solution, and, of course, there are clear elements that this solution needs to contain," Kocijancic said. "We talked about elections that need to be free and fair, but for when they take place, this is something for the Ukrainians to decide."

EU, U.S. Offer Aid

Ukraine has been gripped by more than two months of protests, triggered by Yanukovych's decision not to sign an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. The protests have since turned into mass antigovernment demonstrations against perceived corruption and mismanagement under Yanukovych.

Yanukovych on February 3 said Ukraine had to "say no to the extremism, radicalism, and incitement to hatred in society, behind which lies a struggle for power."

In other news, the commander of Ukraine's Interior Ministry troops has urged his subordinates not to allow the opposition to influence them.

In a statement on the Interior Ministry's website on February 4, General Stanislav Shulyak said that in order to make police and security forces change sides in the more-than-two-month political standoff, the opposition had threatened police, and tried to bribe or influence them through making police and Interior Ministry troops' personal data public.

Meanwhile, the EU's Ashton is due to arrive in Kyiv in a fresh bid to end the standoff. Ashton has been quoted as saying the EU and United States are discussing an aid package for Ukraine.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed Brussels was considering options on how to provide financial aid to Ukraine once it solves its political troubles.

Barroso also said that the EU would not enter a "bidding competition of who pays more for a signature from Ukraine."

Moscow offered Kyiv a $15 billion aid package after Yanukovych walked away from the EU deal. Russia has lent Ukraine $3 billion so far but says it will wait on whether to disburse a further $2 billion until Yanukovych appoints a new prime minister.

Russia on February 3 urged Ukrainian opposition leaders "to avoid threats and ultimatums" and join a dialogue with the government to find a way out of the crisis.

With reporting by and
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