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Ukraine Prime Minister Azarov warns authorities could use force against protesters

Ukraine's Prime Minister warned the government could use force to disperse protesters if clashes continue. Russia's foreign minister, meanwhile, has said the unrest in Ukraine "is spinning out of control."

Speaking on the Russian state television on Tuesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov warned that if the "provocateurs" did not cease, the government could use a controversial new law banning large protests to intervene.

"If the provocateurs do not stop, then the authorities will have no other choice but to use force under the law to protect our people," he told the Vesti 24 state news channel, adding he hoped such action would not be necessary.

"We are hoping for common sense," Azarov said. "People need to understand that they are being offered chaos and destruction."

Thousands of Ukrainians have been protesting since President Viktor Yanukovich rejected a trade deal with the European Union two months ago in favor of strengthening ties with Russia.

Clashes in Kyiv were particularly violent on Sunday and Monday evenings. Some 10,000 protesters battled with security forces, erecting a giant catapult behind a barricade of a burned out police bus to hurl projectiles at authorities.

Police said at least 163 members of security forces were injured, 80 of whom were hospitalized. Activists said hundreds of protesters were also hurt but the exact number remains unclear, while a Ukrainian press freedom group said 35 journalists were injured.

Ukraine 'out of control'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized protesters in Ukraine on Tuesday for using "violence, attacks on police, arson, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices," during clashes this week.

"I personally think that these calls for prudence, which the leaders of the opposition and Vitaly Klitschko in particularly are now making, show that the situation is spinning out of control," said Lavrov.

He also told Europe to quit meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs, hitting out at "members of certain European governments" for visiting protesters in Kyiv. Then-German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited protesters in the capital along with US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in December.

"We would prefer that some of our European colleagues refrained from acting unceremoniously over the Ukrainian crisis," said Lavrov. "It is just distasteful."

dr/lw (AFP, Reuters)

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