Fri, Jan 24, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Yanukovych assures Barroso no state of emergency in Kiev, EU official says

AFP, BRUSSELS and BERLIN

Protesters take cover as they clash with riot police during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has told European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso he does not plan to introduce a state of emergency to curb violent protests in Kiev, commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said yesterday.

The two men talked by telephone and Yanukovych “reassured Barroso that it was not foreseen to install a state of emergency in Ukraine,” Bailly said.

For his part, Barroso urged Yanukovych “to engage in dialogue at the highest level” ahead of more talks planned for later yesterday with opposition leaders in Kiev.

Amid speculation that the EU was considering possible sanctions against Ukraine, Bailly said Brussels for the time being wanted to “give a political dialogue every chance.”

“We want to see the situation calm down, the ending of violence against peaceful demonstrators and journalists,” Bailly said.

The EU “wanted to help” the Ukrainian dialogue, he said, with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele due to visit Kiev today, while EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton may travel there next week.

Asked specifically about the use of sanctions, Bailly said that the priority for Brussels was “not to redefine the [EU’s] relationship with Ukraine.”

At the same time, he said Barroso had said during his conversation with Yanukovych that “if the situation is not stabilized,” then the EU would “assess the possible consequences on the relationship.”

Washington announced on Wednesday a first set of sanctions against Kiev, withdrawing visas from individuals implicated in the violence.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday said that Ukraine must safeguard the lives of pro-EU demonstrators following deadly clashes with security forces, but rejected calls for fresh sanctions against Kiev.

Merkel sharply condemned the violence, which activists say has left five dead, as well as new Ukrainian legislation barring protests, as the EU debates possible reprisals.

“We expect the Ukrainian government to ensure basic rights — particularly the possibility to stage peaceful demonstrations — to protect lives, and that violence not be used,” she told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Merkel said Berlin was “extremely concerned and shocked” by Ukraine “rushing through” laws that “question these basic freedoms.”

“That is why the German government will work hard to ensure that something that is a basic right, namely the right to demonstrate, can be exercised by the Ukrainian opposition,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Kiev, the opposition agreed to an eight-hour truce with security forces after five days of deadly fighting, but threatened to go on the attack if the government failed to agree concessions in further talks.

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