Yanukovich made his offer in comments to church leaders as the
protesters erected more street barricades and occupied a government
ministry building in Kiev ahead of what is expected to be another
hot weekend of anti-government rallies.
The president's Party of the Regions confirmed reports that two
months of protests had spread to other parts of Ukraine,
particularly to pro-European Union western regions, where it said
"extremists" had seized administrative buildings.
Yanukovich, who hails from the mainly Russian-speaking east of
Ukraine, said key decisions would be made at a special session of
parliament scheduled to take place next Tuesday.
"I as president will sign a decree and we will reshuffle the
government in order to find the best possible professional
government team," he said in comments carried on his website.
He gave no indication of how wide the government reshuffle would be
and it was by no means certain Prime Minister Mykola Azarov or any
other key figures would have to step down.
The dismissal of the Azarov government has been one of the main
demands of the opposition and Yanukovich's words were clearly
intended to look like a concession to opponents who have voiced
frustration at his stalling tactics in talks until now.
The promise to reconsider anti-protest legislation, which was
rail-roaded through parliament last week by Yanukovich loyalists,
also appeared to be a concession, which may take some steam out of
fresh protest rallies planned for the weekend.
The mass rallies against Yanukovich's rule erupted last November
after he pulled out of a free trade deal with the European Union in
favor of closer economic ties with Russia, Ukraine's former Soviet
They have since spiraled into protests against misrule and
corruption among Ukraine's leaders and officials and there have been
violent clashes with police in Kiev city center in which three
protesters died this week, two from gunshot wounds.
The protesters control key parts of the city center, including its
main Independence Square. On Friday, they occupied the main
agricultural ministry building after talks stalled on Thursday night
between Yanukovich and the opposition.
Commenting on the spread of protests to other cities, the Party of
the Regions said in a statement: "The situation has grown sharper
throughout the country." It urged Ukrainians to ignore the calls of
"radical troublemakers" to join the rallies.
Thousands stormed regional administration headquarters in Lviv,
Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmelnytsky in western and central
Ukraine, as well as parts of the northeast, the Party of the Regions
More than 100 people have been detained in the unrest, including 24
formally arrested, according to police.
But though some protesters lit tires at the main flashpoint area
near Dynamo Kiev football stadium, they generally appeared to have
heeded an opposition call to maintain a truce.
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In other conciliatory comments on Friday, Yanukovich said he would
bring opposition leaders into an anti-crisis team and he said people
who had been detained so far and had not committed serious crimes
would be amnestied.
"I will do all I can to stop this conflict, to stop this violence
and establish stability," he told the church leaders, according to
his web site.
But, referring to radicals who have bombarded riot police with
petrol bombs and cobblestones, he said: "If we do not succeed, we
will use all legal methods provided for by law."
There was no immediate reaction from opposition leaders to
Yanukovich's comments on Friday.
Earlier, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko said the only way out of
the impasse lay now with international mediation.
"Instead of shifting to solving the situation by common sense,
Yanukovich has declared war on his own people. He is trying to hold
on to power at the price of blood and de-stabilization of the
situation in the country. He has to be stopped," the former world
heavyweight boxing champion said.
In Vienna, Europe's main human rights and security body said it
stood ready to mediate in the crisis after its current chairman,
Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, met Azarov on the
sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.
Burkhalter told Azarov the Organisation for Security and Cooperation
in Europe, to which Ukraine belongs, "could offer its expertise to
facilitate dialogue between the government and opposition", the OSCE
said in a statement.
The crisis in the ex-Soviet republic of 46 million people has rung
alarm bells in the West, while Russia has warned against Western
interference in the crisis.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden phoned Yanukovich on Thursday and
warned him that failing to de-escalate the standoff could have
"consequences", the White House said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois
Hollande have both called for dialogue.
(Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Vienna;
Richard Balmforth; editing by Gareth Jones)
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