THE Ukrainian president offered top government posts to opposition leaders yesterday in a fresh bid to bring a peaceful end to increasingly bloody civil unrest.
Just hours after interior minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko warned trying to resolve the unrest peacefully was futile, sparking fears of outright chaos on the streets, president Viktor Yanukovych met with heads of opposition groups.
Last night he offered former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk the post of prime minister and Vitaly Klitschko, the internationally known boxer, the position of deputy prime minister responsible for humanitarian issues.
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If Yatsenyuk takes the prime minister's job the president would be ready to accept the resignation of the government of Mykola Azarov.
There was no immediate reaction from the opposition leaders, who have been calling for the dismissal of Azarov's government since unrest broke out in Kiev two months ago.
It was likely that after Saturday night's talks they would return to thousands of supporters massed on Kiev's Independence Square to report on the discussions.
The presidential website said Yanukovich had promised that those detained during the unrest would be dealt with leniently if the opposition reined in radical protesters who have clashed with police, and if its leaders can persuade those occupying public buildings to leave.
The crisis has led to brutal clashes between police and protestors since it began in November after the Ukrainian Government ditched a trade agreement with the EU in favour of an accord with Moscow.
Five people - one a policeman - are said to have died, while dozens are reported to have been injured. Police are accused of torturing pro-democracy demonstrators.
Previous attempts at negotiating a truce failed with Zakharchenko placing the blame on "radical groups" .
Zakharchenko has also accused protestors of capturing two policemen, holding them hostage at an occupied government building in Kiev, and torturing them, with one needing hospital treatment.
Protest leader Mykhailo Blavatsky said no police had been seized, and said the government have made the claim in a bid to justify a crackdown on public demonstrations.
Energy minister Eduard Stavytsky said 100 armed protestors stormed the energy ministry yesterday morning.
Stavytsky said: "I went to them and said that if they did not peacefully leave the building then the whole energy system of Ukraine could collapse."
He said the protesters left the building but continued to block entry to it.
Russia wants Ukraine to join its customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, which it sees as a rival to the EU.