Ukraine president warns Kiev protesters amid clashes

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Pro-European integration protesters gather in front of a burning police van during a rally Photo: Reuters
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday warned bloody clashes between protesters and police threatened all of Ukraine as new fighting rocked the capital Kiev.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has appealed for calm, as thousands of people returned to the streets of the capital Kiev on a second day of violence.
Yanukovych made the call on Monday, when demonstrators braved sub-zero temperatures and clashed with police over new anti-protest laws.
A statement issued on the presidential website said: "…when peaceful actions have escalated into mass riots accompanied by demolition, arson and violence, I am confident that such phenomena threaten not only Kiev but the whole of the Ukraine. I call for dialogue, compromise and peace in our native land."
The situation was tense in Kiev, with protesters occasionally charging against police lines guarding the passage to government buildings, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
The violence, which began on Sunday, came after Yanukovych pushed through an anti-protest law that significantly increased fines and imposed jail terms for unauthorised street protests.
The new law also prohibits activists from wearing helmets or masks to demonstrations, curbs free speech and limits the ability to investigate or monitor the activity of officials, including judges.
Sunday\’s fighting left about 200 people wounded.
In an attempt to find a compromise, opposition leader and former boxer Vitali Klitschko travelled to Yanukovych\’s home outside Kiev to meet him.
The president received Klitschko and promised on Monday to create a special commission of officials set up by national security council secretary Andriy Klyuyev to solve the crisis. The move was announced by Klitscko\’s party, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, and the presidency.
The presidency said the new commission would meet the opposition but there was no sign that the meeting had taken place as of Monday evening.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels deplored the continued violence, saying the government was at fault for adopting the repressive laws.
The White House urged an end to the fighting, with US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying that Washington was deeply concerned and urged "all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation".
"The US will continue to consider additional steps – including sanctions – in response to the use of violence," Hayden added.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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