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EU condemns Ukraine's anti-protest law as violence continues in Kiev

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 21.01.2014 09:21
EU foreign ministers have called on Ukraine to reverse legislation which "significantly restricts fundamental freedoms" as police and protesters clashed for a second day in Kiev.

A protester is seen as he gestures signs near a burned car as they clash with riot police during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, 21 January 2014. Hundreds of protesters carrying clubs and wearing gas masks faced riot police on 20 January in front of government headquarters in Kiev: photo - EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

The statement, released after a meeting in Brussels of EU foreign ministers, including Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski, said that legislation passed by Ukrainian MPs last week "would significantly restrict the Ukrainian citizens' fundamental rights of association, media and the press, and seriously curtail the activities of civil society organisations."

"The EU calls on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that these developments are reversed and that its legislation is brought in line with Ukraine's European and international commitments," the statement continues.

Violent protests continued on Monday when mostly young protesters threw stones and Molotov Cocktails at police, who responded with rounds of tear gas a rubber bullets.

Polish media is reporting that right wing nationalist youth had been seen attacking protesters and aiding security forces.

Riot police officer fires a gun during an opposition supporters protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, 20 January: - EPA/ALEXANDR ORLOV

Injuries to protesters and police on Sunday included one demonstrator having to have part of their arm amputated, the TVN 24 news station reports medical staff in the Ukrainian capital as saying.

Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovich, who sparked a wave of protests in November when he refused to sign trade and other deals with the EU, called for calm, saying the political instability is threatening the whole country.

"When peaceful actions have escalated into mass riots accompanied by demolition, arson and violence, I am confident that such phenomena threaten not only Kiev but the whole of the Ukraine. I call for dialogue, compromise and peace in our native land," Yanukovich said in a statement on the presidential web site.

Polish foreign minister Sikorski told reporters, however, that talks between opposition leaders, the EU and Ukraine government had been held before "but nothing came of them", adding that Yanukovich's "words do not match his deeds".

The EU foreign ministers' statement stopped short of mentioning sanctions against Ukraine, although Sweden's Carl Bildt told reporters in Brussels: "“I wouldn’t exclude it [...] We’ll have to see what happens.”

The Swedish foreign minister later tweeted from the meeting: "“EU must start looking at effective instruments against corrupt actors manoeuvering also in the dark corners of the politics of Ukraine.” (pg)

tags: Ukraine
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