Ukraine leader offers olive branch in protests

Ukraine leader offers olive branch in protests

Ukraine’s president has promised to try to release some demonstrators arrested in recent protests against him, in a bid to defuse the country’s tensions.

Kiev has been gripped by more than three weeks of demonstrations – some attracting hundreds of thousands – which began as protests against president Viktor Yanukovych’s backing away from a pact to deepen ties with the European Union. The protests grew larger and more vehement after police twice violently dispersed demonstrators.

The release of those arrested in the dispersals is one of the key demands of opposition leaders who are driving the protests. It was unclear whether Mr Yanukovych’s offer, made in a meeting with the country’s three former presidents, would mollify them.

The offer covered only some of the arrested – those who have not have not committed grave crimes and who have children or families.

Opposition leaders have said their main demand for opening negotiations would be for him to fire the government and appoint a new one committed to deepening integration with the EU.

Meanwhile Western diplomats were in Kiev to try to defuse a the stand-off.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were to meet Mr Yanukovych and the opposition.

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