UK & World News

  • 10 December 2013, 11:55

Ukraine Emergency Talks As Protests Continue

The European Union's top diplomat is set to hold emergency talks with Ukraine's president as fresh protests continue to grip the country's capital.

At least 10 protesters were hurt in clashes with baton-wielding police in the early hours of Tuesday as interior troops and riot police forced demonstrators and removed barricades from around the government headquarters in Kiev.

Mediator Baroness Ashton will meet Viktor Yanukovych for talks aimed at solving the crisis, sparked by Ukraine's decision to reject a pact with the EU in favour of a trade alliance with Russia.

Mr Yanukovych also plans to meet with Ukraine's three former presidents in a search for a resolution to the crisis, which has seen pro-EU demonstrators pitted against security forces for three weeks.

The president is also backing the idea of round-table talks with the opposition.

But the opposition has refused to negotiate until Mr Yanukovych dismisses the government, punishes riot police for crushing a smaller protest last month and releases arrested demonstrators.

"A round table does not fit very well in a square prison cell," said opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

The party of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said that armed law enforcement officers had raided its headquarters, taking away documents and servers.

Baroness Ashton voiced concerns that any attempts to end the stand-off between the two sides could be could be derailed by the raid on opposition party offices.

She urged the authorities "to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from any further use of force, in order to give space for a negotiated solution out of the current political stalemate".

It comes a day after US Vice President Joe Biden conveyed Washington's "deep concern" to Mr Yanukovych.

Mr Biden had called Mr Yanukovych and emphasised the "need to immediately de-escalate the situation and begin dialogue with opposition leaders", a White House statement said.

Ukraine's political standoff has been aggravated by its rapidly deteriorating finances.

The economy has been in recession for more than a year, and the government is in desperate need of foreign funding to avoid a default.

As talks stalled with the International Monetary Fund, Mr Yanukovych has sought a bailout loan from Russia.

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