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Yanukovych addresses the nation, blaming opposition

Dear fellow citizens!

Together we have faced many challenges. But the one that we are facing today is perhaps the most difficult of them all. There has been a disaster. People have died. And that is tremendously painful and tragic for each of us. But we must endure and overcome this together.

From the very beginning of this confrontation, I have called for dialogue, being categorically opposed to solutions involving force, particularly bloodshed. That is my guiding principle – that no power is worth shedding even a single drop of blood. This is the very principle that guided me in 2004, when I stopped my supporters from clashing with those of my opponent. That is why, even in today’s conflict, I was betting on dialogue. Because God gave people the ability to speak so that they could understand each other.I must say that some dialogue did actually take place. We implemented two amnesties – the first after the events of December, with the second entering into force on February 17. But then, on the following day, on February 18th, the opposition leaders chose to call on the radical segments of Maidan to launch an armed battle. Not only did the opposition fail to wait for the opening of the Parliamentary session which was to vote on laws that would have changed Ukraine. On the contrary, they blocked the Parliament, making it impossible to adopt these changes. They issued a demand: to immediately place all of the power in the hands of the opposition. With no mandate from the people, these, pardon my saying this, “politicians” attempted to seize power unlawfully and in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine through riots, arson, and killings.

The opposition leaders ignored the main principle of democracy: power should be won not on the streets or in the squares – only at the polls. I have told them more than once: there will soon be elections. If the people have confidence in you, you will come to power. If they don’t trust you, you will not be in power. But both should happen lawfully, as prescribed by the Constitution of Ukraine.

They crossed the line when they called upon people to take up arms. This is a blatant violation of the law. And those who break the law must be held accountable in court, and the court must be the one to determine the punishment. I am not saying this on a whim. It is my duty, as the guarantor of our Constitution, to protect peace in the country, peace among citizens, and justice for all.

On this basis, I once again call upon the opposition leaders, who argue that they, too, seek a peaceful resolution, to immediately disassociate themselves from those radical forces that are provoking bloodshed and clashes with law enforcement. Or, if they do not wish to disassociate themselves, to acknowledge that they support the radicals. And then we will hold an entirely different discussion.

I’ll be honest with you. Some of my advisers are trying to persuade me to resort to harsher options – to use force. But I have always considered the use of force to be the wrong approach. There is a better and more effective way – to find common ground. To seek a compromise. To reach an agreement. I have already said this more than once: in such a situation, there will be losses for the government. There will be losses for the opposition. But Ukraine will win.

I have persistently urged people to refrain from radical action. But I have not been heard. I repeat and appeal to you once again. It is not too late to listen. It is not too late to stop the conflict.

Yes, we cannot bring back the dead. Yes, we have already paid a very high price for the ambitions of those who yearn for power. But for this price to not go any higher – come to your senses! We need to sit down at the negotiating table and save Ukraine. Because future generations will not forgive us if we destroy this country, which should belong to them – to our descendants.

Dear fellow citizens! Dear people who have lost family and loved ones in this senseless conflict, let me express my profound condolences. I know that words cannot take away your grief. I understand what a terrible tragedy has befallen you. But I would like to offer you, at this moment, my support and my sincere regret.

At present, we must all understand one thing: even the harshest of confrontations will come to an end. But Ukraine must remain forever. And this is our first and foremost goal.

Viktor Yanukovych

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