Ukrainian president to seek protesters' release

Associated Press
Riot police block an opposition tent camp while displacing pro-European Union activists from their barricades at the Ukrainian presidential administration building in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Heavily armed riot troops broke into the offices of a top Ukrainian opposition party in Kiev and seized its servers Monday, the party said, as anti-government protests crippled the capital for yet another day. Elsewhere police dismantled or blocked off several small protest tent camps set up near key national government buildings in the city. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's president says he will ask the country's general prosecutor to find a way to release some of the demonstrators who were arrested in recent protests, in a bid to defuse the country's tensions.

Ukraine's capital has been gripped by more than three weeks of demonstrations — some attracting hundreds of thousands — which began as protests against President Viktor Yanukovych's backing away from a pact to deepen ties with the European Union. The protests grew larger and more vehement after police twice violently dispersed demonstrators.

The release of those arrested in the dispersals is one of the key demands of opposition leaders who are driving the protests. It was unclear whether Yanukovych's offer, made in a meeting with the country's three former presidents, would mollify the opposition.

Yanukovych's offer covered only some of the arrested — those who have not haven't committed grave crimes and who have children or families.

"Certainly, such people will be released," he said in a televised broadcast of the meeting. Investigations of those freed would continue.

Opposition leaders have said their main demand for opening negotiations with Yanukovych would be for him to fire the government and appoint a new one committed to deepening integration with the EU.

But Yanukovych gave no indication he would consider firing the government and said only that Ukraine remains committed to closer European ties.

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Jim Heintz and Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report.

Follow Heintz on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jeheintz and Danilova at https://twitter.com/mashadanilova.

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