* Confrontation follows offer of top posts to opposition
* Opposition says will keep up demands for early election
* Ukraine's U-turn away from Europe has divided country
By Pavel Polityuk
KIEV, Jan 26 Police clashed with protesters who
blockaded a building in central Kiev on Sunday and the fate of
Ukraine's government was up in the air after embattled President
Viktor Yanukovich offered opposition leaders key posts.
One of the president's main foes called his offer a
"poisoned" attempt to kill off a protest movement in a country
plunged into political unrest by Yanukovich's U-turn away from
the European Union and toward Russia.
In the latest violence, a few thousand protesters tried to
storm an ornate cultural centre where hundreds of security
forces were gathered in central Kiev, a few hundred metres from
the hub of weeks of opposition protests on Independence Square.
Demonstrators threw stones and smoke bombs while police
fired stun grenades and sprayed water into the crowd.
The police and security forces later left the building, its
windows shattered, and streamed out through a corridor created
by the crowd after an opposition leader, Vitaly Klitschko,
arrived at the scene and helped negotiate a solution.
The two-hour, pre-dawn confrontation came after Yanukovich
made his biggest concession yet in a two-month-old standoff that
has cast Ukraine into crisis, killed at least three people and
deepened tension between Russia and the West.
Yanukovich abruptly abandoned plans to sign political
association and free trade deals with the European Union in
November, pledging instead to improve ties with former Soviet
master Russia and angering millions who dream of being in
Hoping to end protests that threaten to bring the country to
a standstill, Yanukovich on Saturday offered former economy
minister Arseny Yatsenyuk the post of prime minister. Klitschko,
a former international boxing champion, was offered the post of
deputy prime minister responsible for humanitarian issues, a
statement on the presidential website said.
The presidency linked its offer to the opposition reining in
violent protesters. Though the protest movement is largely
peaceful, a hard core of radicals have been fighting pitched
battles with police away from Independence Square.
Opposition leaders, whose power base is among protesters
massing in the square whose name evokes the independence Ukraine
gained in 1991, continued to press for concessions including
early elections and the repeal of an anti-protest law.
"We are ready to take on this responsibility and take the
country into the European Union," Yatsenyuk was quoted as
telling crowds on Independence Square after emerging from talks
with Yanukovich. But he added this would entail the freeing of
former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed in 2011.
Klitschko told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag: "This was a
poisoned offer by Yanukovich to divide our protest movement. We
will keep on negotiating and continue to demand early elections.
The protest by Ukrainians against the corrupt president must not
have been in vain."
Opposition leaders say Yanukovich has betrayed Ukraine and
are calling for a presidential election long before the next one
is due in spring 2015. Klitschko said it must be held this year.
The United States has warned Yanukovich that failure to ease
the standoff could have "consequences" for its relationship with
Ukraine. Germany, France and other Western governments have also
urged him to talk to the opposition.
Russia on Saturday stepped up its warnings against
international interference in Ukraine, telling European Union
officials to prevent outside meddling and cautioning the United
States against inflammatory statements.