EU concerned over raid on Ukraine opposition in Kiev

10th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced concern Tuesday that attempts to end the stand-off between Ukraine security forces and pro-EU demonstrators could be derailed by a raid on opposition party offices.

Ashton, who will hold conciliation talks in Kiev on Tuesday, said she was following "with concern the reports that police forces forcibly entered the office of the biggest opposition party, Batkivshchyna".

"These latest events seriously risk to derail the process," she added in a statement.

"I call on the Ukrainian authorities to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from any further use of force, in order to give space for a negotiated solution out of the current political stalemate."

The party of Ukraine's jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko's said on Monday that riot police had stormed its headquarters in the capital Kiev, although the police issued a quick denial.

Batkivshchyna is one of the three major opposition parties in Ukraine now spearheading mass demonstrations demanding the immediate dismissal of the government over its rejection of a historic EU pact.

Ashton noted that the raid occurred on the same day that Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, proposed the establishment of a national roundtable bringing together the leaders of all political forces and the three former presidents of Ukraine.

In the biggest protests since the 2004 Orange Revolution, hundreds of thousands packed Kiev's Independence Square on Sunday to denounce Yanukovych's rejection of the EU pact under Kremlin pressure.

Ukrainian security forces on Monday moved in on the pro-EU demonstrators to end a week-long blockade of the government headquarters, prompting Washington to urge Kiev to "immediately de-escalate the situation".

President Yanukovych announced he would meet the former Ukrainian presidents on Tuesday in a bid to find a way out of the crisis and was also backing the idea of roundtable talks with the opposition.

With international concern growing about the risk of tensions degenerating into violence, Ashton was to travel to Kiev Tuesday for talks with Yanukovych.

"She's expected to meet all the main stakeholders on both sides ... as well as civil society," a European Commission spokeswoman said Monday.

"She's travelling there to support a way out of the political crisis in Ukraine," she added.

The spokeswoman stressed that the EU "continues to request an investigation into the violence we have seen against the peaceful protesters and everything that followed".

Earlier Monday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appeared to back the protesters, saying in a speech: "If sometimes in Europe, some of us have doubts about how important these European values are, just look at Ukraine."

© 2013 AFP

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