February 17, 2014 / 7:45 PM / 5 years ago

Merkel meets Ukrainian opposition leaders in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with two Ukrainian opposition leaders on Monday, in a sign of support, but did not appear to have given concrete backing to their pleas for immediate sanctions on President Viktor Yanukovich

Ukraine has been hit by three months of unrest at perceived corruption in the Yanukovich administration, sparked by his decision not to pursue trade and other deals with the European Union.

The Ukrainian opposition has been urging the EU to go beyond vocal support for its fight for more democracy. On Monday, it also pressed Yanukovich to accept curbs on his powers that would allow it to form an independent government to defuse the protests and save the economy from collapse.

At a news conference in the German parliament, opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko and Arseny Yatsenyuk said they were pleased with the talks with Merkel. Yet asked about her response to his proposal for sanctions, boxer-turned-politician Klitschko simply replied: “All options are on the table.”

Andreas Schockenhoff, a senior lawmaker from Merkel’s conservatives who was hosting the two Ukrainians, said that while there remained a realistic chance of reaching political compromise with Yanukovich to end the conflict, “it would not be right to introduce sanctions - but sanctions are not ruled out”.

Klitschko and Yatsenyuk stressed the need for economic assistance from the European Union and International Monetary Fund - but not for the Yanukovich government.

“We strongly believe that we are capable of fixing this very dramatic economic crisis,” said former economy minister Yatsenyuk. “The Ukrainian people are fighting for their freedom and liberty and we will fight until victory.”

Reporting by Stephen Brown; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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