Ukraine clashes: Stand-off in Kiev as talks awaited

White House blames Ukraine government for increased tensions.

Ukrainian demonstrators remain in a tense stand-off with police in central Kiev a day after anti-government protests erupted into violence, the BBC reports. Clashes broke out as some protesters tried to reach parliament on Sunday. It followed weeks of mainly peaceful action against Kiev’s decision to spurn a political agreement with the EU, and then to toughen anti-protest laws.
President Viktor Yanukovych says he is now ready to negotiate with pro-EU protesters and opposition leaders.
He said a cross-party commission would be set up on Monday to try to resolve the deepening crisis. Opposition leaders confirmed this, but there were few other details. On the road leading from Europe Square to parliament, riot police were still standing behind shields on Monday morning, lined up against dozens of protesters who had camped out overnight despite temperatures dropping well below freezing. EU foreign ministers, arriving for a meeting in Brussels, called for calm.
“I absolutely deplore the violence that occurred,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, calling it “a mistake” for the government to have introduced restrictions on protest. But he said “we welcome” the government’s apparent willingness to talk to the opposition.
The White House is blaming increased tensions in Ukraine on its government for failing to acknowledge its people’s legitimate grievances, and is threatening sanctions if the use of violence continues, reports. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says Ukraine is weakening the foundations of its democracy by criminalizing protests. She’s calling on Ukraine to repeal recent laws limiting protests, remove riot police from downtown Kiev and start talking to the opposition.

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