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Ukraine

Ashton calls for political action to help solve Ukraine crisis

The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has called for political action to help bring an end to the unrest in Ukraine. While the threat of violence is declining, she said, the country's crisis is far from over.

Ashton in Ukraine for talks

Ashton told a press conference in Kiev on Wednesday that the EU was ready to provide financial aid and diplomatic expertise to help bring an end to two months of violent protest and put Ukraine on a long-term path of economic development.

She said a "Ukrainian-led process" of reform was still possible, but that both the government and opposition had to come together and make real compromises.

"What I really need to feel is a growing sense of momentum on this," said Ashton, who was in the country to meet with the president and opposition leaders. "I think that is where we need to see more work."

'Great concern' for violence

Ukraine has been in political crisis since President Viktor Yanukovych's government spurned an economic deal with the EU in favor of strengthening ties with Russia. Since then protesters have taken to the streets. The demonstrations have led to often violent and sometimes fatal clashes with police, while Ukraine's economy continues to tumble as a result of the unrest.

Despite a tense truce between opposition protesters and the police, the bloody confrontations with security forces persist.

"Although there is a sense that violence is decreasing, there is still great concern about the situation on the ground," Ashton said.

There is "a great need for those who have committed violence to be brought to justice," she said, adding that the EU was willing to support a transparent and independent judicial process.

Multifaceted aid package

Ashton said a potential aid package from the US and EU would be more than simply monetary assistance.

"In terms of economic support, this is not just about the EU nor about large dollops of money," she said, adding that it also concerned "the kind of support, including expertise, technical ability, resources that can be given, the role of institutions internationally, the role of EU member states."

"It's about how do you pull together an economic package that would provide for the clear economic needs of the country in the context of economic reform," Ashton said.

dr/lw (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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