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KIEV, December 10, 22:34 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian incumbent president Viktor Yanukovich met on Tuesday with his three predecessors in the presidential office - Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko - to discuss ways out of the political crisis, which has emerged in the country after the government suspended the signing of the association agreement with the European Union, a step that triggered mass protests. Fuel to the fire was added when the police used force against protesters.
The meeting was telecast by the First National television channel some two hours after it had been over. Immediately after this meeting, ex-President Leonid Kravchuk headed to a nationwide roundtable meeting organized at his initiative and broadcast live, where he informed about the previous meeting with President Yanukovich. Kravchuk’s report was somewhat broader than the televised footage of the meeting between Ukraine’s presidents.
At the beginning of the meeting, President Yanukovich said that the opposition’s calls for a revolution, for the change of power and the constitutional system were a threat to national security. He also stressed that it was inadmissible to block roads and administrative buildings. “I think them (protesters - Itar-Tass) to be persons who think the same way as I do. They came to peaceful actions. They had all the rights to do that, to express their point of view. And provocations and violations of public order took place because emotions were running high,” he said.
Moreover, he promised that some of protest action participants arrested in Kiev would be released later in the day. “People charged with minor offences will be set free,” the president said, adding that he would prefer to turn “this ugly page” as soon as possible. He also pledged all those responsible for breaching the law in Kiev’s Independence Square would be called to responsibility. “As for the conflict, I agree with both of the parties. Those responsible must undoubtedly be brought to responsibility,” Yanukovich said.
Touching on the acute the most sensitive problem of relations with the European Union and Russia, the Ukrainian leader said that protecting Ukraine’s national interests, Ukraine should not set off its relations with the European Union against its ties with Russia. “It is necessary to look for way how to integrate” these relations, Yanukovich noted. “We are confident that no one would do it for us. My actions and actions of the government shall always by guided by this.”
He once again stressed that Ukraine should resume normal trade relations with Russia. “When we are now speaking about economic prospects in the immediate future, we cannot consider this issue without resuming normal trade relations with Russia,” he said. “This is the question that requires an answer.”
At the same time, he reassured that Ukraine would stick to its course to European integration. “This course that has been fixed at the legislative level will not be changed. We shall continue this path,” he stressed. On Wednesday, he said, a working group led by First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Arbuzov will go to Brussels to “begin concrete work with the European Union.” This proposal, according to the Ukrainian president, came from the European Commission.
As concerns the Association Agreement with the European Union, Kiev, in his words, would determine the conditions of signing this agreement before the Ukraine-European Union summit in March 2014. He stressed that the Ukrainian side would negotiate “each commodity group” with Brussels since “the proposed agreement as it is poses certain risks to Ukraine’s agrarian sector."
Yanukovich also said that Ukraine was negotiating a new cooperation programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but would not take loans on unfavourable terms. In his words, cooperation with the International Monetary Fund had been one of the subjects he had discussed with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden over the phone. “He told me that the issue of an IMF loan [to Ukraine] had been almost settled. But I answered that if the terms were the same - to freeze wages and pensions, to increase gas tariffs - we do not want such loans,” he said.
Later on Tuesday, ex-President Leonid Kravchuk said that Yanukovich had approved plans to sign the association agreement with the European Union in March 2014. Yanukovich “thinks it necessary to begin work to adjust the association agreement with the European Union and to sight this agreement in March 2014,” Kravchuk noted. He also said that President Yanukovich might take part in a roundtable meeting on the situation in the country. “Yanukovich will not take part in each session, but if need be, he will attend a roundtable session,” Kravchuk told journalists. He also said that another ex-president, Leonid Kuchma, had been commissioned to have talks with the opposition later on Tuesday on participation in a roundtable meeting planned for Wednesday.
Kravchuk stressed that protesters from the Independence Square could not attend to issues of state power. “I have never been in Maidan (Kiev’s Independence Square), neither this time nor back in 2004, not because I do not respect Maidan,” he said. “I respect people who are standing there, I listen to them, I follow the developments. But the issues raised in Maidan should not be tackled there. These issues are solved either at the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) or by the people. This is the matter of power and this is defined by the constitution.