Ukrainian Prime Minister: Claims Coup D’Etat Behind Protests

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Three deaths took place on Wednesday as Ukrainian protesters continued the outcry against the passage of new legislative limitations on democratic rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to protest. The government backlash against protestors has been heavily criticized by the international community, including condemning statements released by the European Union and United States, with the EU insisting that Ukraine conform to the democratic norms of its fellows.

Now, the prime minister of Ukraine, Mykola Azarov, said that the country is dealing with a coup d’état attempt, according to a press release from the Department of Information and Communications in the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. “There is a coup d’etat attempt in Ukraine. And all who support this coup must explicitly say: yes, we are for overthrow[ing] the legitimate authority in Ukraine and not to hide behind the peaceful protesters,” said the prime minister.

Azarov told journalists in Davos, Switzerland — where he met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe — that those demanding early presidential elections to be held are making lofty demands. “To hold elections [would be] totally unrealistic,” he said, pointing out that regular elections will take place in less than a year. “Do you think it is possible under such conditions to hold the elections when the center of Kyiv practically occupied by guerrilla … First of all it is necessary to normalize the situation in the country,” he said, per a release from the DIC of Ukraine’s secretariat.

The meeting in Switzerland took place between Azarov and Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland in order to outline the legal requirements that would keep Ukraine in line with European norms. Ukraine’s PM insisted upon legal discussion of the antidemocratic legislation in order to consider changing the policies.

“We are ready to discuss with your experts the content of laws approved on January 16 of the current year. In our opinion, an unbiased expert discussion has to convince our partners that these norms correspond completely to the norms present in the legislation of the European countries,” said Azarov, per a press release. Jagland supported Azarov’s proposal that a legal examination take place.

“In my discussion today with the Prime Minister, I proposed hi to reassess, jointly with our experts, the entire legislative package adopted on 16 January, in order to ensure that Ukraine meets the Council of Europe Standards,” said Jagland in a statement. “In a statement issued after the meeting, the Prime Minister accepted this offer and agreed to immediately begin the appropriate consultations at the expert level. I welcome his constructive attitude.”

The secretary general also made mention of the current protests, emphasizing that the violence on the streets must stop and that “the dialogue with the Council of Europe on this legislative package could be an important contribution to this process.”

U.S. Department of State Deputy Department spokeswoman Marie Harf released a statement on behalf of the United States, condemning the violence in Kiev. “We urge all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation,” she said, condemning violence stemming from extremist groups on the far right while also touching on the violence and detention of journalists and peaceful protestors. “Increased tensions in Ukraine are a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government’s failure to engage in real dialogue and the passage of anti-democratic legislation on January 16,” said the statement.

Some discussions were accomplished Thursday, with the leaders of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance and both Svoboda and Batkivshchyna groups meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to discuss negotiations. The meeting led to UDAR head Vitali Klitschko calling for a temporary truce on Hrushevskoho Street.

“Now the shots are not heard and nothing burns. This is very important,” said Klitschko, according to a Thursday statement published by the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance. “I urge you to keep the peace. I’m going to negotiate with Yanukovych. After that I will come back here. Therefore I call on everyone: hold straight, show no aggression to avoid new bloodshed.”

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