Besieged Ukraine president could call early elections to untangle crisis

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych at a press conference in Vienna on Nov 21, 2013. Mr Yanukovych could call early elections if there are no other ways out of the crisis, his representative has told Parliament. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych at a press conference in Vienna on Nov 21, 2013. Mr Yanukovych could call early elections if there are no other ways out of the crisis, his representative has told Parliament. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

KIEV (AFP) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych could call early elections if there are no other ways out of the crisis, his representative has told Parliament.

Mr Yuriy Miroshnichenko said Mr Yanukovych spoke at a meeting with lawmakers last week of "two possible scenarios" to end a two-month crisis.

"The first is the release of occupied buildings and an amnesty, and the second is early elections. The amnesty is not working out," Mr Miroshnychenko told AFP, referring to the release of detained protesters.

The opposition wants protesters freed unconditionally, while Mr Yanukovych and his ruling Regions Party say this can only happen if occupied buildings, including ministries and regional government offices, are vacated within the next few days.

Mr Miroshnychenko spoke just hours before the arrival of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and as Parliament met to discuss opposition demands, including a constitutional overhaul to curb presidential powers.

On Monday, Mr Yanukovych blasted the mass protests against his rule as "extremism", as the European Union and the United States discussed possible economic aid to help end the country's deep political crisis.

Returning to work after four days of sick leave on Monday, Mr Yanukovych slammed the anti-government movement as "radicalism and incitement to hatred behind which there is a struggle for power".

He also appeared to link militants to Nazis, calling for "a community of wholesome people without the Nazism, racism and xenophobia that remind us of the terrible lessons of history" in his first public comments since Thursday.

The mass protests have set off sparks between Russia and the West and claimed the lives of at least two protesters and two policemen. Thousands remain camped out on Kiev's Independence Square and in occupied buildings in the capital, refusing to leave until the president steps down.

Ms Ashton's spokesman Maja Kocijancic said the EU and its foreign partners were talking about "what we can do to help support the Ukrainian economy" but stressed any aid would be linked to political reforms or the naming of a new government.