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Ukraine Opposition Leaders Urge Sanctions


Ukraine opposition leader Vitali Klitschko addresses a press conference in Berlin on February 17.
Ukraine opposition leader Vitali Klitschko addresses a press conference in Berlin on February 17.
Ukrainian opposition leaders have met in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Ukraine's political crisis, with Vitali Klitschko urging EU sanctions on senior officials.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Klitschko held talks with Merkel on February 17.

Klitschko said after the meeting he urged the German chancellor to impose sanctions on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his inner circle, especially tracing banking transactions originating from Ukraine.

"I am very pleased with the course of the discussions and as a result I am hopeful that it will mean further support for Ukraine in solving its political problems. All parties are interested in this, they who would like to see Ukraine as a political and economical stable country," Klitschko told reporters.

Merkel assured Yatsenyuk and Klitschko that Germany and the European Union would do everything possible to try and assure a "positive outcome" to the crisis in Ukraine.

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the release of jailed protesters in Ukraine and the handover of occupied buildings in Kyiv on February 16 were signs that the government and opposition can find common ground.

Yatsenyuk said he spoke during the meeting about the need for Ukraine to have an inclusive government.

"We believe that [Ukraine should] shift from a presidential [system] to a parliamentary-presidential. And we urge President [Yanukovych] and the government to pass a special bill in the parliament in order to [transform] Ukraine [into] a democratic state [that is] a parliamentary-presidential republic," Yatsenyuk said.

He added once such a government was established he was hoping for support from European and Western partners.

Yatsenyuk also said Ukraine needs a relationship with Russia but he said that relationship must be transparent and in keeping with the standards and norms of the EU.

"We urge our Russian partners to do what our European and Western partners are doing. Everyone is to display its real goals," Yatsenyuk said.

Amnesty Takes Effect

Antigovernment protests have been raging for nearly three months in Ukraine, with protesters occupying Kyiv's Independence Square and government buildings in a bid to ouster Yanukovych.

The government said an amnesty for protesters would be implemented on February 17 after they agreed to end an occupation of Kyiv's city hall and other government buildings.

Protesters also agreed to vacate part of Hrushevskyy Street, the scene of violent clashes in late January, but continue to occupy Independence Square.

Protesters detained during antigovernment demonstrations were released last week, but criminal charges against them were to be dropped only after they agreed to vacate government buildings. Some protesters also were placed under house arrest.

The office of Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka announced late on February 16 that the Interior Ministry confirmed protesters had met all the conditions necessary to bring the amnesty law into effect.

Yanukovych proposed the amnesty at the beginning of the month as a compromise following clashes that left at least three protesters dead in Kyiv in January.

Yanukovych also dismissed his government, but has not appointed a new one. He offered senior cabinet posts to the opposition but opposition leaders turned down the offer.

Protesters ultimately want the president himself to step down. They also want changes to the constitution to curtail presidential powers.

With reporting by AFP and
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