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Europe

Merkel, Hollande push for Ukraine sanctions

Paris and Berlin have agreed on possible sanctions after at least 25 people died in violent clashes in Kyiv. The EU is preparing to push through emergency measures following the bloodshed on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called for targeted sanctions against Ukraine's leadership at a joint press conference in Paris on Wednesday.

The two said the measures were part of an approach to promote a compromise leading to constitutional reform and elections.

"What is happening in Ukraine is unspeakable, unacceptable, intolerable," said Hollande.

Merkel also said sanctions against Ukraine's leadership would show the EU was serious in pressing for a political solution. She told waiting reporters that they were talking to all sides in the crisis, including Russia.

Meanwhile, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron called on Kyiv to pull back security forces surrounding protesters in the capital.

In a statement released by Downing Street on Wednesday, Cameron said "I am deeply concerned by the scenes we are witnessing in Ukraine."

"President [Viktor] Yanukovich should be under no doubt that the world is watching his actions and that those responsible for violence will be held accountable," Cameron continued.

In a further development on Wednesday evening, the president replaced the chief of Ukraine's armed forces.

The move was announced in a presidential decree and came as the acting defense minister said the army could take part in a nationwide anti-terrorist operation to restore order.

Foreign ministers head to Ukraine

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be joined by his French and Polish counterparts in Kyiv on Thursday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed they would go to Ukraine ahead of talks in Brussels.

"With my Polish and German colleagues we have decided to go to Kyiv tomorrow morning ... to gather the latest information before the meeting in Brussels," Fabius said alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was on an official trip to Paris.

Kerry also said the US was working closely with the EU on the Ukraine crisis.

"We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our friends in Europe and elsewhere in order to try to create the environment for compromise," he said.

Emergency EU talks

Speaking from Brussels, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy confirmed that "our ministers in the Foreign Affairs Council will at their meeting tomorrow (Thursday) examine targeted measures, such as financial sanctions and visa restrictions against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force."

EU diplomats are reported to be already in the process of drafting sanctions against those behind fresh violence and continued use of excessive force in Ukraine.

Last week, Europe's foreign ministers promised they would "respond quickly to any deterioration on the ground," but the implementation of sanctions needs the unanimous backing of all 28 member states.

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said, "It was with shock and utter dismay that we have been watching developments over the last 24 hours in Ukraine."

"There are no circumstances that can legitimize or justify such scenes," he added.

Barroso echoed the international community's reaction to the deaths of at least 25 people, including nine police officers, in violent clashes on Independence Square - also known as Maidan - in Kyiv on Tuesday. Hundreds were reported to have been injured.

Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank (EIB) said it had frozen its activities in Ukraine due to the recent violence.

Three months of unrest

In November, initial peaceful protests were held in Kyiv after Yanukovych rejected an EU deal in favor of strengthening ties with Russia.

In mid-December, the president had struck a multi-billion dollar bailout agreement with Moscow to a backdrop of increasing unrest.

By then, a reported 300,000 people had joined the demonstrations in the capital - police brutality and use of excessive force became the main media focus in the biggest rallies since the Orange revolution in 2004.

lw/dr (dpa, Reuters, AP)

DW.DE