By Mick Krever, CNN
Massive protests by Ukrainians against their government – upwards of 300,000 by some estimates – will succeed in forcing political compromise or snap elections, opposition leader and former foreign minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk insisted to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
The opposition’s key demand, Yatsenyuk said, is for the Ukrainian parliament to pass a vote of no confidence in the president, Viktor Yanukovych. He hopes that that would force compromise.
“Otherwise the situation could be not as stable as today,” Yatsenyuk said from Kiev. “And it much depends on this president: Whether is he ready to negotiate and whether is he ready to reach the compromise.”
“The ultimate goal of the opposition is snap presidential and parliamentary elections.”
Yatsenyuk leads the Batkivshchyna Party; former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who used to head the party, is currently in jail after being convicted of abuse of authority.
President Yanukovych declined late last month to sign a landmark trade deal with the European Union, many say under intense pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Protests against the president’s decision have ballooned into the biggest since the Orange Revolution uprising nine years ago.
Those protests were sparked by claims that Yanukovych, who was then prime minister, was trying to steal the 2004 presidential election from his main challenger, Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko was eventually declared the winner, but served only one term amid infighting among his coalition partners.
Amanpour asked Yatsenyuk if the massive protests now taking place would be an “Orange Revolution Two.”
“It’s like a legacy of the Orange Revolution,” he said. “Due to the Orange Revolution, people have the spirit of freedom in my country.”
The European Union, Yatsenyuk said, was “very clear” that signing a trade deal would not be an auction.
“You can’t sell the country to the European Union or to Russia,” he said. “This is the way how to reform the country.”
President Yanukovych, he said, “has nothing to do with the European values.”
Ukraine’s leaders need to deliver changes, he said, something the “corrupted government” and “corrupted president” have not done.
“People still believe in their future – in their European future.”
“I believe that we will definitely reach our target: A prosperous and pro-European country.”
“And it’s not an easy job. I want to be absolutely frank. It’s not an easy job to topple the government, to change the president, to sign an association agreement. But this is our agenda.”