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Kiev: President Calls 'Sick Leave,' Sparking Suspicions

President Viktor Yanukovych calls 'indefinite sick leave' in the midst of raging civil conflict; protestors warn of drastic gov't move.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 1/31/2014, 8:13 AM

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (file)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (file)
Flash90

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced that he was going on "indefinite sick leave" Thursday - leaving the public confused and opposition leaders suspicious. 

The Washington Post notes that the announcement has aroused suspicions from Opposition leaders.  

“I remember from the Soviet Union it’s a bad sign — a bad sign because always if some Soviet Union leaders have to make an unpopular decision, they go to the hospital," said Vitaly Klitschko, one of the officials spearheading opposition protests. 

"This smacks of a diplomatic illness," Rostislav Pavlenko,another Opposition official, told Reuters. "It allows Yanukovych not to sign laws, not to meet the opposition, absent himself from decisions to solve the political crisis."

One analyst claims that the move could be a sign of a coup. 

“I don’t remember official statements on Viktor Yanukovych’s colds. But I remember well, when on Aug. 19, 1991, the vice president of the USSR, Gennady Yanayev, announced the serious illness of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev,” Vitaly Portnikov wrote on his Facebook page. The announcement was a ruse to take Gorbachev out of power- and an attempted coup. 

BBC News notes Friday that Yanukovych's office may be doing just that: taking a hard line against the protestors - despite the fact that waves of protests have burst all over Ukraine and the fact that they have a legion of international supporters. 

"We have fulfilled all the obligations which the authorities took on themselves," President Yanukovych wrote on his website.  "However, the opposition continues to inflame the situation calling on people to stand in the cold for the sake of the political ambitions of a few leaders. I think this is wrong."

Yanukovch did conclude with some conciliatory remarks, however. "From my side, I will show more understanding to the demands and ambitions of people, taking into account the mistakes that authorities always make... I think that we can together return the life of Ukraine and its people to peace," he stated. 

 

The development is the latest in a series of mass protests in Kiev since early December, when hundreds stormed Independence Square to protest the government's refusal to become a full member of the European Union (EU). Yanukovych opted to strengthen ties with Russia instead of joining the EU - angering the population which was once under Soviet rule. 

Over the weekend, Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk rejected an offer by President Yanukovych to take up the post of Prime Minister - as well as several other offers that signaled willingness to meet the opposition's demands. He said that refusal stemmed solely from the government's refusal to repeal the anti-protest laws, which were eventually repealed earlier this week.

Despite this, talks have stalled - and the protest has spread from a central Kiev square to provincial governments across the country.