21 Jan 2014

Clashes threaten all Ukraine - president

5:47 pm on 21 January 2014

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych is warning the stability of his nation is threatened by the continuing clashes between police and anti-government protesters in the capital, Kiev.

In his first public comments on the most recent violence, he also called for dialogue, compromise and calm on Monday.

A smoke grenade explodes during clashes between police and protesters in central Kiev.

A smoke grenade explodes during clashes between police and protesters in central Kiev. Photo: AFP

The conflict - the worst in Kiev in recent times - comes after two months of demonstrations against Mr Yanukovych's refusal to sign a pact for closer integration with the European Union.

In a second day of clashes after 200 were injured in Sunday's fighting, thousands of Ukrainians braved temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius to take part in a new stand-off with police, AFP reports.

Protesters lobbed stones dug up from the cobbled road, flung Molotov cocktails and threw fireworks at police lines over a 20-metre no-man's land on Monday. Police responded with stun grenades rubber bullets and tear gas.

"I am convinced that such phenomena are a threat not only to the public in Kiev but all of Ukraine," Mr Yanukovych said. "I urge dialogue, compromise and calm in our native land. I ask you not to follow those who urge violence, who are seeking to provoke a split between the state and society."

But even after his comments, some 10,000 protesters remained around the centre of the clashes, with the most radical using lasers to blind police firing stun grenades.

"Who, if not us, and when, if not now," read a banner carried by one group of protesters.

According to the Kiev health authorities, more than 100 protesters were wounded in Sunday's clashes. The interior ministry said over 100 members of the security forces had been wounded, and 30 people had been arrested for mass rioting.

The White House urged an end to the violence, with US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden warning that Washington was still considering sanctions against Ukrainian officials.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday said the government was at fault for adopting repressive laws which allow jail terms of up to five years for those who blockade public buildings and the arrest of protesters wearing masks or helmets. Other provisions ban the dissemination of "slander" on the internet.