Ukraine gov’t threatens emergency decree as protesters take over Justice Ministry building
posted at 10:01 am on January 27, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
For a brief moment yesterday, the conflict in Ukraine seemed close to a resolution. The government of Viktor Yanukovich offered two top posts to the opposition as a way to resolve the near-revolt in the streets, but refused to call for early elections. In response, demonstrators seized a building in the Justice Ministry, adding it to a number of government buildings seized in western Ukraine as the crisis intensifies:
On Saturday, Mr. Yanukovych had offered to dismiss the government and install one opposition leader, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, as prime minister, and a second, the former champion boxer Vitali Klitschko, as a deputy prime minister for humanitarian affairs. He also proposed an array of other concessions, including a rollback of constitutional changes, made at his direction, which broadly expanded the powers of the presidency earlier in his term.
The opposition leaders, who represent different minority parties in Parliament and share little in common politically other than their antipathy toward Mr. Yanukovych, rejected the offer. That decision came much to the relief of thousands of protesters on the street who say they little have faith in any of Ukraine’s elected politicians, and want deeper, more systemic changes. …
On Tuesday, the Parliament is scheduled to hold an emergency session, and Mr. Yanukovych said over the weekend that many of his concessions could be put in place at that time. In addition to promising to reconsider the changes to the Constitution, he said Parliament would revisit laws rammed through by his supporters on Jan. 16 that imposed severe new restrictions on political dissent, including freedom of speech and assembly. Opposition leaders have said they want those laws repealed, not amended.
Euronews reports on the conflict:
Russia Today has raw video of the action:
Today, the Ukrainian government threatened to declare an emergency, which would in essence declare war on the protesters:
“If the ministry isn’t freed immediately, I’ll have to ask the National Security and Defense Council to discuss a state of emergency,” Justice Minister Olena Lukash said today on Inter TV. “I’ll have to turn to the president and ask to stop negotiations unless the ministry is freed without delay.” …
Under Ukrainian law, such a decision must come by presidential decree. The president also has to address the public with a warning that such a move is possible. Parliament would have two days to approve the decree.
Imposing a state of emergency “would be very detrimental for the authorities as it would lead to further escalation, further destabilization and fiercer confrontation,” Yuriy Yakymenko, head of the political department at the Razumkov Center for Economical and Political Studies in Kiev, said by phone. “It would be a more painful means of resolution.”
Yanukovych said Jan. 25 that he’s ready to give the premiership and a deputy prime minister position to opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko. While Yatsenyuk said he’s ready to form a government that would free jailed ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko and guide Ukraine toward better ties with Europe, he fell short of endorsing Yanukovych’s offer.
The protesters have countered this leaving the building –but want to continue to block access to it. If the Yanukovich government declares an emergency, they pledge to start seizing more government offices, and the countdown to an armed conflict in Kiev will begin.
The EU and Russia are both sending mediators to try to negotiate an end to the impasse before serious bloodshed begins. However, the opposition wants a full accounting of their leaders who have been “disappeared” from the streets, a demand with which the Yanukovich government has not yet complied. Until that happens, the two sides may not have much to discuss.