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Ukraine: tense calm amid scepticism over talks

(Vatican Radio)-- A tense calm has returned to the streets of Ukraine's capital Kyiv after hours of talks between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich on how to end a crisis that has killed at least three protesters. Braving freezing temperatures, thousands of protesters were weighting their options amid confusion if and when the president would meet their demands for early elections, closer ties with the European Union, and more freedom in this former Soviet nation.
Listen to this report from Stefan Bos: RealAudioMP3

After four hours of negotiations with President Yanukovych, ex-economy minister and current opposition leader of the Fatherland party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said there was a "high" chance of finding a solution to end the bloodshed.

Yet, the influential heavyweight boxing champion-turned opposition leader Vitali Klitscko appeared less optimistic when talking to reporters.

"This was not easy. We have some agreement, but let's see whether the people will accept that or not," Klitschko said. He later told the crowds that the president had made no concessions during the talks. "I had the same reaction," he said, while protesters began shouting slogans that include "shame! shame!"

Anger has been fuelled by recent street battles between demonstrators and riot police in which at least three protesters are now known to have died. Two of them passed away

of bullet wounds.

However Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has accused the opposition of wanting to take over power by force.

"I call this an attempt for a coup d'etat," he said in an interview. "Our EU partners should say the same. What would they do in their country if the presidential residence is being attacked? Church leaders have appealed for prayers, while some Christian groups distributed Bibles among protesters. Priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church are also praying with demonstrators, despite threats by the government to outlaw their denomination.


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