President Viktor Yanukovych pledged to reshuffle his government and amend controversial anti-protest laws to ease Ukraine's crisis, after losing control of local administrations across the west of the country.

With the ex-Soviet state in shock after five days of deadly clashes, Yanukovych vowed to press on with talks with the opposition but warned he would use "all legal methods" if no solution were found.

The protesters occupying the centre of the capital Kiev showed no sign of yielding and extended their barricades close to the presidential administration.

Clashes that started Sunday on Grushevsky Street on the fringes of the main protest zone in Kiev had left five dead, according to activists.

The authorities have confirmed only that two people died from gunshot wounds: a Ukrainian of Armenian origin and a Belarussian citizen. But police insisted they were not killed by fire from security forces.

In one of the biggest blows to Yanukovych during the crisis so far, protesters have seized control of regional administrations in six regions in anti-government and pro-EU western Ukraine, including the key Lviv region on the border with Poland.

In the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk, thousands of protesters Friday stormed the regional administration and managed to occupy two floors of the building despite clashes with police who used tear gas.

Protesters were also controlling regional administrations in Ternopil, Rivne, Khmelnytsky and Chernivtsi, all in the west of the country.

More than two months of demonstrations against Yanukovych's refusal to sign a pact with the EU have now turned into a broader movement against his four-year rule, which the opposition claims has been riddled with corruption and nepotism.

When parliament meets in an extraordinary session on Tuesday "we will take a decision about reshuffling the government," Yanukovych said at a meeting of religious leaders.

He also said that parliament would discuss changes to tough anti-protest laws passed last week, which reinvigorated the protest movement.

But in an apparent warning to opposition protesters, the Ukrainian president added: "If things turn out good then all is well, but, if not, we will use all legal methods" to resolve the crisis.

Violence broke out in Kiev again late Friday, with molotov cocktails flying in one direction and stun grenades in the other, but both sides stuck to their positions and the flare-up did not escalate into the running battles seen earlier in the week.

A truce between protesters and police brokered by opposition leader and world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko on Thursday had held until then.

Wearing helmets and improvised body armour, the protesters had worked to build up their barricades around Independence Square using tyres and sandbags filled with snow, turning the centre of Kiev into a fortress.

Protesters, who want to see radical concessions, have so far expressed bitter disappointment at the result of negotiations between the opposition and the president.

"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."

In a sign he may still be in no mood to compromise, the president had earlier Friday named his hardline ally Andriy Klyuyev as his new chief of staff, replacing a more moderate figure.

Concern also grew about the fate of a prominent anti-government activist, Dmytro Bulatov, 35, who has been reported missing.

Another activist, Yuriy Verbytskiy, who was murdered and whose corpse was discovered in a forest outside Kiev, was buried in his home city of Lviv Friday in hugely emotional scenes.

World leaders have condemned the violence and urged the president to hold talks. But so far Western pressure has had little impact on the standoff.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele held talks with Yanukovych in Kiev, without making any comment. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to visit next week.

France summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to voice its "condemnation" of the government's response to the protests in Kiev, saying security forces had been ordered to open fire on demonstrators. Germany also summoned the Ukrainian envoy.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the United States was in close contact with European allies to try to end the violence.

Even Hollywood star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped in, sending a video message of support to the protesters.

 

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