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Ukraine

Ukraine protesters expand Kyiv camp after failure of talks with Yanukovych

Protesters in Ukraine have strengthened barricades and enlarged their camp after talks between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovych failed. The EU has stressed the need for further dialogue.

Ukraine protesters expand camp

Ukrainian protesters set up new barricades closer to the presidential administration building in Kyiv, after the talks late on Thursday produced no concrete result.

Activists were also reported to have occupied the agriculture ministry in the city center, meeting no resistance. On his Facebook page, coordinator of the activist organization Common Cause, Oleksandr Danylyuk said the group was seeking to replace the minister in charge.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko vowed that demonstrators would expand their camp on Independence Square, known as the Maidan. "The Maidan (Independence Square) is an island of freedom," said the former world boxing champion. "We will be expanding the territory of the Maidan until we are heard."

The discussions between President Yanukovych and opposition leaders, who are calling for the government to step down, ended Thursday without any real breakthrough.

"Hours of conversation were spent about nothing," said Klitschko, "There is no sense sitting at a negotiating table with someone who has already decided to deceive you."

Protesters grow impatient

There were jeers and chats of "revolution" and "shame" from some members of the crowd as opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok called for restraint. Protest leaders had set Thursday evening as the deadline for the government to make concessions.

At least three activists have been killed in recent days after violence flared between police and protesters. On Thursday, violence spread to the west of the country, where opposition to Yanukovych is strongest.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday morning that he had requested the summoning of the Ukrainian ambassador to Paris, after learning security forces had been told to fire on protesters.

"I instructed the Quai d'Orsay (foreign ministry) to summon the Ukrainian ambassador in France today, which is a gesture to show that there is condemnation on France's part," said Fabius. "There were orders to fire on the crowd, which is clearly unacceptable."

Brussels sends envoys

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele was scheduled to meet Yanukovych on Friday, with a delegation from the European Parliament set to visit next week. Announcing the parliamentary visit, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stressed the need for dialogue.

"I am convinced that, in light of the violent escalation of events, the EU has to reinforce the efforts in support of the political solution," Ashton said.

Activists first began to occupy Independence Square after Yanukovych opted out of an integration deal with the European Union, ostensibly under Russian pressure. The latest violence followed the passing of new laws placing curbs on free speech and introducing tough new anti-protest laws.

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

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