Ukraine PM warns opposition to halt ‘escalation’
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Wednesday called on the opposition to stop escalating tensions in the country's worst political crisis in a decade, at the first cabinet meeting since mass street protests began.
“I am announcing a call to stop an escalation of political tensions,” Azarov said at the start of a government meeting as some 1,500 protesters sought to blockade the government headquarters amid a heavy police presence.
“I would like to tell people: your leaders are putting you up to a crime,” he said, referring to leaders of three main opposition parties. “They will try to hide behind lawmaker immunity. But you will have no one to hide behind.”
“The reasons for streets protests have been exhausted,” he said, adding the authorities were keeping the situation under control.
President Viktor Yanukovych last week rejected a political and trade pact with the EU, sparking the largest demonstrations since the pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004.
On Tuesday, Azarov’s government survived a no-confidence vote in parliament after an opposition motion mustered just 186 of the 226 votes required to pass.
There had been little prospect of the motion passing, with Yanukovych’s ruling Regions Party controling the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada.