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Protests

After another night of violence, Russia tells Europeans not to interfere in Ukraine

Russia has called on European governments not to interfere in the political crisis in Ukraine. The statement followed another night of violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police in Kyiv

Protesters keep up pressure in Kyiv

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday to call on European Union (EU) countries to refrain from getting directly involved in a standoff between pro-European protesters and the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

"We would prefer that some of our European colleagues refrained from acting unceremoniously over the Ukrainian crisis, when, without any kind of invitation, members of certain European governments rush to the Maidan (independence square), take part in anti-government demonstrations in a country, with which they have diplomatic relations," Lavrov said. "It is just distasteful."

After a second consecutive night of clashes between protesters and police, who had moved in to try to pull down barricades, Lavrov also expressed the fear that the situation in Kyiv was threatening to escalate.

"I personally believe that those calls for prudence that the opposition leaders - Vitali Klitschko in particular - are making, they show that the situation is getting out of control," he said.

Klitscho, a former world heavyweight boxing champion turned politician, as well as other opposition leaders, have appeared unable to stop the violence. He has accused the government of paying thugs engage in violence in an effort to delegitimize the protests.

More violent clashes

Monday's clashes turned downtown Kyiv into what witnesses have described as a being akin to a war zone, with fireworks and stun grenades lighting up the night sky as both demonstrators and police braved temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).

Demonstrators held their ground after police attempted to disperse a camp set up weeks ago in the city center early on Tuesday, as a new law banning almost all forms protest came into force. Some demonstrators tossed fire bombs and rocks at the police, who responded with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Presidential warning

This came just hours after President Yanukovych warned that the ongoing violence in the capital could engulf the entire country.

"I am convinced that such phenomena are a threat not only to the public in Kyiv but all of Ukraine," he said in an address broadcast on state TV. "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," Yanukovych added.

The EU, though, has blamed Yanukovych's government for the violence.

"These legislative acts would significantly restrict the Ukrainian citizens' fundamental rights of association, media and the press and seriously curtail the activities of civil society organizations," the EU foreign ministers said in a joint statement issued following a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

pfd/hc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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