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Ukrainian president agrees to talks to defuse crisis

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich agreed Monday to meet with the country’s three former presidents to discuss how to end the political crisis that has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to protests in the capital, Kiev.

The president said the round table would take place Tuesday.

During a massive rally on Sunday that continued on Monday, Ukraine’s opposition leaders told pro-Europe demonstrators to pressure Yanukovich to sack his government and drop plans for closer ties with Russia.

The protesters, gathered on Kiev’s Independence Square, are furious with the Yanukovich government for its decision to ditch a landmark pact with the European Union in favor of a trade deal with Moscow, Ukraine’s Soviet-era overlord. Scores of riot police were dispatched to the area on Monday, stoking fears of a crackdown.

Angry crowds that brandished the flag of the nationalist Freedom Party toppled the statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin on Sunday, police said, protesting the country’s strengthening ties with Moscow.

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