Ukraine Leader Takes Sick Leave as Conflict Lingers


KIEV, Ukraine -- The president of Ukraine has taken sick leave in the midst of his country's crisis.

President Viktor Yanukovych is suffering an acute respiratory illness and high fever, the presidential website states. Officials gave no indication of how long he may be on leave or whether he would be able to work from his sickbed to end the two-month old protests against him.

The news comes as Ukrainian experts warn the country is on the brink of civil war.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's prime minister has resigned. So has the cabinet. But many of the tens of thousands of protestors on the streets of Kiev say this is not enough.

"We are demanding the resignation of the parliament, of the president, for snap presidential and parliament elections to take place," anti-government protestor Bogdan Cossak told CBN News.

Downtown Kiev is ground zero, the epicenter of the battle for opposition forces. For two months, tens of thousands of people have gathered in the capital to demand the president step down.

The crisis started in November after Russian President Vladimir Putin convinced Yanukovych to refuse a major trade deal and closer ties with the European Union for closer relations with Russia instead.

Michael Cherenkov, an analyst based in Kiev, said from the Kremlin's perspective, Russia has no borders.

"Russia thinks Ukraine is still part of their territory, part of their empire so they were more than happy to help bail out Ukraine," Cherenkov explained.

But it wasn't what many Ukrainians wanted so they took to the streets by the thousands. The protests have since morphed into demands for more human rights, less corruption, more democracy and an end to the government's authoritarian policies.

"People see the policies of President Yanukovych as a symbol of everything that is wrong with our country, so they want new leadership, a new direction," Cherenkov said.

Earlier this month, Yanukovych pushed through new laws to crack down on protests. But the laws were abruptly repealed this week following violent clashes between police and protesters.

Until its independence in 1991, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. Home to 45 million people, the country is split between pro-European regions in the West and pro-Russian areas in the East.

Some fear the crisis could spark a civil war between the two regions. On Tuesday, thousands of pro-government supporters took to the streets of Kiev.

"We don't want a split in the country, a civil war, because during a civil war there are no winners. We just need to sit down and talk," Oleksandr, a Yanukovych supporter, said.

Despite attempts to talk, the clashes continue around the country.

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