Ukraine leader Yanukovych willing to hold early elections: Polish PM

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych speaks in Kiev on Feb 19, 2014, during his address to the nation. -- PHOTO: AFP
Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych speaks in Kiev on Feb 19, 2014, during his address to the nation. -- PHOTO: AFP

WARSAW (AFP) - Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych told EU envoys he was willing to hold early elections this year, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Thursday, after clashes between anti-government protesters and police in Kiev left dozens dead.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland held talks with Yanukovych on Thursday to negotiate a document that "possibly offers some hope towards breaking the chain of violence", Tusk told reporters in Warsaw.

"Among other things it was agreed with Yanukovych that there was a willingness to hold early elections this year, both presidential and parliamentary," Tusk said about the talks with France's Laurent Fabius, Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski.

Tusk added that Yanukovych was willing to form a national unity government in the next 10 days and to change the constitution before the summer.

The envoys held several hours of talks with Yanukovych and with the three main leaders of the opposition in Kiev, as the European Union agreed on Thursday to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Ukrainians deemed responsible for human rights violations, violence and excessive use of force.

Sikorski took to Twitter late Thursday following talks with the opposition saying: "...on the way back to the President to help negotiations. Progress made but important differences remain." Tusk called on Poles to declare their solidarity with neighbour Ukraine by lighting candles in windows across the country Friday evening in honour of those who died in Kiev.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama joined with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to call for an urgent political solution to the deadly crisis gripping Ukraine.

"The chancellor and the presidents have reached an agreement to call for a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine as quickly as possible and for an end to the bloodbath," the German government said in a statement released after phone calls between the Western leaders and Putin, who have been at odds over Ukraine's future.

The unrest in Ukraine was initially ignited by Yanukovych's shock decision in November to ditch a historic EU trade and political association agreement in favour of closer ties with Russia.