Newspaper article International New York Times

Civil Unrest Spreads across Ukraine ; with Protests at Impasse in Kiev, Demonstrations Erupt in 9 Other Cities

Newspaper article International New York Times

Civil Unrest Spreads across Ukraine ; with Protests at Impasse in Kiev, Demonstrations Erupt in 9 Other Cities

Article excerpt

As demonstrations appeared at an impasse in the capital of Kiev, protesters laid siege to government buildings in at least nine other cities.

With President Viktor F. Yanukovich and anti-government demonstrators at an impasse here in the Ukrainian capital, civil unrest spread across the country on Friday as protesters laid siege to government buildings in at least nine other cities, occupying some and gathering outside others.

The widening turmoil showed that the authorities, including the elite Berkut riot police and Interior Ministry troops, were outnumbered and at serious risk of being spread too thin.

Officials said there were 3,000 to 4,000 Berkut riot police officers and 8,000 to 9,000 Interior Ministry troops deployed across the country. During the two-month-long uprising, there have routinely been many more protesters than on the streets of Kiev alone. And some officers, particularly in the country's west, are thought to side with the opposition.

Demonstrations were reported Friday in the central Ukrainian cities of Khmelnitsky, Zhytomyr and Cherkasy, as well as in the Western strongholds of Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Rivne and Chernivtsi.

In Rivne, in northwest Ukraine, demonstrators demanded that riot police units deployed to Kiev be brought back home.

At a meeting with religious leaders in Kiev, Mr. Yanukovich vowed to restore stability and expressed frustration that opposition leaders seemed unable to exert influence over protesters who had clashed violently with the police during the past week. But while he tried to portray himself as willing to make concessions, he offered little to satisfy critics.

"I will do everything to stop this conflict, to stop violence and establish stability -- certainly to stop radicals," Mr. Yanukovich said in the meeting, according to a statement released by his office. "If we manage to stop them amicably, we will stop them amicably. Otherwise, we will use all legal methods."

In Kiev, a tentative truce declared on Wednesday to aid negotiations remained in place, but the peace seemed fragile and at risk of breaking at any moment.

Demonstrators were fortifying and adding to barricades around Independence Square and near the Dynamo soccer stadium, which has been the site of the fiercest fighting with the police. …

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