President Viktor Yanukovych on Friday pledged to reshuffle his government and amend controversial anti-protest laws to ease Ukraine’s crisis, after losing control of local administrations across the west of the country.
With the ex-Soviet state in shock after five days of deadly clashes, Yanukovych vowed to press on talks with the opposition but warned he would use “all legal methods” if no solution were found.
The protesters occupying the centre of the capital Kiev showed no sign of yielding and extended their barricades close to the presidential administration.
Clashes that started Sunday on Grushevsky Street on the fringes of the main protest zone in Kiev had left five dead, according to activists.
The authorities have confirmed only that two people died from gunshot wounds: a Ukrainian of Armenian origin and a Belarussian citizen. But police insisted they were not killed by fire from security forces.
In one of the biggest blows to Yanukovych during the crisis so far, protesters have seized control of regional administrations in six regions in anti-government and pro-EU western Ukraine, including the key Lviv region on the border with Poland.
In the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk, thousands of protesters Friday stormed the regional administration and managed to occupy two floors of the building despite clashes with police who used tear gas.
Protesters were also controlling regional administrations in Ternopil, Rivne, Khmelnytsky and Chernivtsi, all in the west of the country.
More than two months of demonstrations against Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a pact with the EU have now turned into a broader movement against his four-year rule, which the opposition claims has been riddled with corruption and nepotism.