Ukraine’s opposition failed to force out the government with a parliamentary no-confidence vote Tuesday, leaving political tensions unresolved and a potential standoff between protesters and the country’s leaders looming.
The opposition called for the vote in protest both of President Viktor Yanukovych’s shelving of a long-anticipated agreement to deepen political and economic ties with the European Union and the violent tactics used by police to disperse demonstrators protesting that decision.
The dispute has brought crowds of up to 300,000 people to the streets of Kiev, the largest outpouring of public anger since the 2004 Orange Revolution.
The no-confidence measure got the support of 186 members of the Verkhovna Rada, 40 shy of the majority needed. Even if it had passed, Mr. Yanukovych would have remained president, but the Prime Minister and Cabinet would have been ejected.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, attending the parliamentary session with his Cabinet, apologised for the violence by riot police against protesters.
“Both the president and the government feel deeply sorry that it happened,” Mr. Azarov told a rowdy parliament, to unceasing chants of “Shame” and “Resignation” from opposition lawmakers.
But Mr. Azarov defended the government’s course, denouncing protesters who have blocked access to government offices and warning the opposition that authorities will be able to hold their ground.
“We are open for dialogue,” he said. “We have extended our hand to you, but if we encounter a fist, I will be frank, we have enough force.”
In turn, Vitali Klitschko, boxing star and leader of the opposition party Udar, vowed that the action would continue.
“We will peacefully blockade the government building and not allow them to work,” he told demonstrators.