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Ukrainian Opposition Presses For Further Concessions

An antigovernment opposition activist places European Union and Ukrainian flags side by side at a barricade in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on February 2 as tens of thousands of protesters rallied to demand President Viktor Yanukovych resign.
An antigovernment opposition activist places European Union and Ukrainian flags side by side at a barricade in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on February 2 as tens of thousands of protesters rallied to demand President Viktor Yanukovych resign.
KYIV -- Ukraine's opposition is pressing for further concessions from President Viktor Yanukovych to end more than two months of antigovernment protests.

A presidential spokesman said Yanukovych was back at work on February 3 after taking a leave of absence due to a respiratory ailment.

Yanukovych has already accepted the resignation of the government, while parliament has repealed controversial antiprotest laws and approved a conditional amnesty for detained protesters.

But the opposition wants Yanukovych to resign, and an early election.

The opposition is also seeking an unconditional amnesty and wants a return to Ukraine's 2004 constitution to limit the powers of the president.

Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk on February 3 said constitutional change would "cancel the dictatorial powers of the president and transfer the right of governing the country to the Ukrainian people."

The opposition has called on protesters to rally on Kyiv's Independence Square again on February 3 to press their demands.

One protester on Independence Square named Mykhaylo told Reuters that Ukraine needed new leadership. "A new government should be chosen. That's it. There can be no agreements," he said.

"They say that the president is getting out of hospital and everything will change, but I think nothing will change. He will make the situation even worse. And there is nothing to agree upon."

Another protester said the protests had left an indelible impression. "It's hard to say what kind of government will come into power when this all will end," he said.

"But whoever it is, after this Maidan, they will think in advance about their actions. They will not forget Maidan."

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on February 3 that Moscow was concerned by what it said was the desire of the opposition in Ukraine to "further inflame the situation in the country."

In a statement, it called on the opposition to "renounce threats and ultimatums and revitalize a dialogue with the authorities with a view to taking the country out of a deep crisis and into a constitutional sphere."

Europe and the United States, meanwhile, are discussing financial support as part of a political solution to the crisis.

WATCH: Crowd sings national anthem at rally in Kyiv.
Crowd Sings National Anthem At Antigovernment Rally In Kyiv
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EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton has been quoted as saying the EU and United States were working on a large financial-aid plan for Ukraine.

Ashton told "The Wall Street Journal" the aid would be aimed at helping Ukraine during a transition period, when an interim government could approve political and economic reforms ahead of a presidential election now scheduled for next year.

The amount of aid "won't be small," Ashton said, and will not require Ukraine to conclude a long-term agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

She said the package might not only consist of money but could also contain "guarantees" or help on investment or shoring up the currency, though she did not elaborate.

Ashton visited Ukraine last week to try to promote dialogue between the government and opposition.

Yanukovych took a leave of absence on January 30 for what his office described as a respiratory illness. The opposition, however, suspected Yanukovych would use the time away to prepare a state of emergency.

On February 4, parliament is expected to debate reforms to the constitution to take some powers now in the hands of the president and give them to the prime minister.

Ukraine has witnessed nearly daily demonstrations since November, when Yanukovych abruptly backed away from a long-awaited agreement to deepen ties with the European Union.

With reporting by Reuters,, ITAR-TASS, dpa, and AP
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