Ukrainian police sets protest deadline, ministers urge calm

Ukrainian police sets protest deadline, ministers urge calm

PanARMENIAN.Net - Ukrainian police on Thursday, December 5 gave demonstrators five days to leave public buildings they have occupied in protest against a government policy lurch back towards Russia, as ministers at a European security conference urged a peaceful end to the confrontation, Reuters said.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov defended his government's handling of the crisis since Kiev walked away from a trade deal with the European Union, and clashed with Germany's foreign minister over charges that police had used excessive force against the protesters.

"Nazis, extremists and criminals cannot be, in any way, our partners in 'eurointegration'," the government website quoted Azarov as telling Germany's Guido Westerwelle, referring to protesters who have blockaded the main government offices and occupied other public buildings.

Westerwelle, who is in Kiev for a foreign ministers' meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), expressed concern about police behavior at the protests last weekend.

"Recent events, in particular the violence against peaceful demonstrators last Saturday in Kiev worry me greatly," said Westerwelle, who visited the main protest center on Kiev's Independence Square on Wednesday.

"Ukraine has a responsibility to protect peaceful demonstrators from any kind of intimidation and violence. The way Ukraine responds to the pro-European rallies is a yardstick for how seriously Ukraine takes the shared values of the OSCE," he added, echoing comments of other ministers at the meeting.

The crisis has again exposed a tug-of-war in Ukraine, which has oscillated between the EU and its former masters in Moscow since the Orange Revolution nine years ago overturned the post-Soviet political order.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, accused some of his European counterparts of over-reacting to President Viktor Yanukovich's abrupt decision last month to pursue closer trade relations with Moscow.

"This situation is linked with the hysteria that some Europeans have raised over Ukraine which, using its sovereign right, decided at the current moment not to sign any agreement which Ukrainian experts and authorities considered disadvantageous," Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting.

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