Ukrainian opposition protesters built more barricades in a central square in the capital early Friday, after late night talks with the government failed to yield results.
Opposition leader and former professional boxer Vitaly Klitschko said the hours-long talks between himself, other opposition leaders, and President Viktor Yanukovych were futile.
“Long hours of conversations, long hours of conversations about nothing. Now I understand – to sit down at the same table with the man who has already decided to lie to you, is pointless,” said Klitschko.
Those camped out in Kyiv’s Independence Square expanded their protest site early Friday as a fragile truce called a day earlier continued to hold.
One of the protesters, named Alexander, said the new barricades were necessary, following several days of violence.
“The barricade was built in case riot police decide to attack, that is, to use force. This here to hold them back temporarily,” said Alexander.
At least three protesters were killed Wednesday during clashes with riot police.
Human Rights Watch said on Friday that nothing could justify the “vicious beatings” and “torture” carried out by the police. It called for a thorough investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, the demonstrations spread Thursday beyond the capital to several other areas in western Ukraine, with protesters storming government offices in the towns of Cherkasy and Lviv.
Opposition leaders and their supporters are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, early presidential elections and the lifting of recently-imposed restrictions on protests.
Russian television reported the talks included a possible rollback in the new laws and changes to the prime minister’s Cabinet. However, no official government announcement had been made as of early Friday. The situation remains unclear.
US Vice President Joe Biden telephoned Yanukovych Thursday to urge an immediate de-escalation in the increasingly violent standoff.
A White House statement said Biden also warned the embattled Ukrainian leader that “further bloodshed will have consequences for Ukraine’s relationship with the United States.”
The crisis was spawned by the president’s November 21 decision to back out of a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia. The Kyiv government’s decision resulted in a multi-billion-dollar bailout from Moscow that analysts say staved off near-certain bankruptcy for the impoverished country.
(Protesters burning old tires on January 22 to slow down the police attacks they expected. Screenshot from Ukrainian broadcaster Espresso TV, via @nycjim/twitter.com)