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Ukraine crisis: EU sanctions push over Kiev bloodshed

Published: 02-19-14

Reprinted from the BBC, full story with photos here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26258998

Europe's leaders are to consider urgent sanctions against Ukraine after the worst violence in months of unrest claimed at least 26 lives.

Violence that began on Tuesday continued through the night as police tried to uproot the protest stronghold in the capital Kiev.

President Viktor Yanukovych blamed opposition leaders and Russia spoke of an attempted coup.

But the EU said it expected measures to target those behind the "repression".

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso spoke of the responsibility of "the political leadership" while several EU countries said they had no doubts that the Ukrainian authorities were to blame.

With an emergency meeting due to take place on Thursday, EU leaders have been expressing concern:

  • At a joint news conference, French President Francois Hollande said those responsible for the violence "will be sanctioned" while German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the threat, saying they were "side by side with the men and women who suffer"
  • Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: "I will today hold talks with the leaders of the biggest EU countries and European institutions, and persuade them to impose sanctions - personal and financial"
  • Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said President Yanukovych had "blood on his hands"

Police launched two assaults on Kiev's Independence Square, also known as the Maidan, in an attempt to regain control of the sprawling area that has been in the hands of protesters for several months.

As police gained ground in the Maidan, stones and petrol bombs were met with tear gas. The protesters tried to hold their defence lines, burning tyres on the barricades and more anti-government activists were said to be on their way to join the camp.

By morning, the BBC's Daniel Sandford said police had taken control of a corner of the square.

The protests began in late November, when President Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Tensions had begun to subside as recently as Monday, when protesters ended their occupation of government buildings in return for an amnesty from prosecution.

But violence erupted outside parliament on Tuesday morning as government supporters blocked opposition attempts to scale back the president's constitutional powers. They argued more time was needed to discuss the proposals.

Correspondents say it was unclear what sparked the clashes, with each side blaming the other.

r to pull out of the EU association deal.