The violent protests in Ukraine could have an end in sight. A close ally of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych told a TV station that the president was thinking of giving into opposition demands and holding early elections.
The news comes as Yanukovych returns to Kiev from a four-day sick leave. His first order of business is to fill the prime minister’s vacant seat after Mykola Azarov and his government resigned resigned last week. Yanukovych had previously offered the post to an opposition leader, but he refused.
Parliament also has repealed all of the laws criminalizing protest that set off a violent turn of the protests in early January. Still, protesters called for Yanukovych to hold early elections and now he seems prepared to do so.
Yuri Miroschnicheko, an ally of Yanukoych in the Ukrainian Parliament, hinted that Yanukoych was ready to hold both presidential and parliamentary elections.
Even if elections are held, the country couldn’t be more divided, and there's no guarantee that the opposition would win any coveted positions. In a recent poll, 51 percent said they want Yanukovych to step down and hold a presidential election, and 58 percent called for early parliamentary elections. A Yanukovych ally polled at 21.6 percent support for prime minister, while an opposition politician polled at 21.8 percent.
In regards to sending troops to squash the protests, Yanukovych said that while he had the power to do so, “I will never do that, because these are also our citizens.” Still, he criticized the occupation of government buildings and said in a statement that Ukraine had to “say no to the extremism, radicalism and incitement to hatred in society, behind which lies a struggle for power.”
The underlying issue behind the civil unrest in Ukraine is rooted in a struggle between pro-European Union and pro-Russian groups. Late last year Yanukovych refused an EU partnership deal that set off the initial peaceful protests. He then signed a $15 billion investment deal with Russia.