Ukraine protesters expand camp after talks

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Thousands of anti-government protesters continue to hold out in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
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Ukrainian protesters have expanded their protest camp in Kiev closer to the administration of President Viktor Yanukovych after crisis talks to end Ukraine's worst crisis since its 1991 independence ended in deadlock.

After five days of clashes that activists say left five dead, Ukraine's three main opposition leaders held several hours of talks with Yanukovych late Thursday but the minor concessions they announced were greeted with derision by protesters.

The outcome to the crisis remains uncertain, with protesters refusing to give way after over two months of demonstrations against Yanukovych's refusal to sign a pact with the EU that have now turned into a broader movement against his four-year rule.

In a new tactic sure to rattle Yanukovych, thousands of protesters stormed local administration buildings in the west of Ukraine, seizing control or besieging governors offices in half a dozen cities.

Wearing helmets and ad-hoc body armour, the Kiev protesters worked through the night to build up their existing barricades around Independence Square using sandbags filled with snow and tyres, turning the centre of Kiev into a fortress.

In a clear warning to Yanukovych, their final barricade is now only a few dozen metres from the presidential administration located on Bankovaya Street in central Kiev.

Activists also occupied the agriculture ministry in the city centre, an AFP correspondent said, and it was not clear if its bureaucrats would be able to go to work.

Most shops and restaurants close to or in the protest zone have now closed down "for technical reasons", with Kiev's famed Khreshchatyk Avenue now an extension of the protest camp.

"I feel deceived. We waited all day for a result of the negotiations and we got nothing," said protester Yevgeny, 26, wearing a helmet.

"I have fear now but have even more fear for the future," he added.

Lyubov, a protester from Ivano-Frankivsk in west Ukraine who had travelled to Kiev, added: "We know the authorities do not want to compromise, we have known this for a long time."

Clashes that started Sunday on Grushevsky Street on the fringes of the main protest zone left five dead, according to activists. The authorities have only confirmed that two died from gunshot wounds but have claimed police were not to blame.

Opposition leader and former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko said the president appeared to be turning a deaf ear to the opposition's key demand of the resignation of the government.

"I feel how tense the atmosphere is. I feel how great the hopes are," he said.

Oleg Tyagnybok, leader of the Svoboda (Freedom) party, said there was a proposal to create a buffer zone between protesters and security forces that would leave the main protest camp on Independence Square untouched by police.

But when Tyagnybok asked protesters for a show of hands about whether the talks should continue, the answer was negative. It was not clear whether the opposition would continue the negotiations ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament Tuesday.

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