Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich will not use force to clear the streets and may challenge his opponents to early elections if they fail to compromise, according to reported comments by a political ally. Emerging on the day the president returned from sick leave and as parliament convenes for a new term on Tuesday, it may be an attempt to break a deadlock that has gripped central Kiev – and Ukraine’s ailing economy – since November, when Yanukovich spurned an EU trade deal and sought aid instead from Russia. At least six people have been killed in the past two weeks and fierce clashes between riot police and increasingly militant squads of hardline protesters have prompted concern that the big former Soviet state of 45 million people, which separates Russia from the European Union, might descend into civil war. However, Yanukovich, possibly comforted by an opinion survey last week showing both he and his party topping polls with about 20 percent support in Ukraine’s fragmented political system, may be ready to call the bluff of opponents who want him to quit.
A leading member of parliament from Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions was quoted in local media late on Monday saying the president had told his allies he would not declare a state of emergency or use troops or other force to clear central Kiev’s Maidan protest camp or public buildings occupied by protesters. “We have every possibility of liberating administrative premises and even liberating Maidan by force,” Yanukovich was quoted as saying by lawmaker Yuri Miroshnichenko. “I will never do that, because these are also our citizens.”
Miroshnichenko’s remarks were made to Ukraine’s ICTV television, as reported by the news website Ukrainska Pravda. No comment was immediately available from the president and there was no immediate response from opposition leaders.
Miroshnichenko said there had been discussions recently within the party about declaring a state of emergency, a move that could, among other things, let the government use troops. “There will be no state of emergency,” he said.