Malta calling for dialogue as Ukraine situation worsens

Foreign Minister George Vella said this evening that countries need to be prudent before deciding to impose sanctions following the flare-up of violence in the Ukraine, noting that atrocities had been committed by both sides.

Speaking in Parliament, Dr Vella said he would attend an EU foreign ministers' meeting tomorrow to discuss the worsening situation.

While some countries were advocating the immediate imposition of sanctions, he said the situation needed to be assessed carefully. There was no doubt that the situation had worsened considerably, but it could be that there were elements trying to create trouble.

At this stage, Malta was of the view that good counsel and diplomacy should be used to try to bring both sides to dialogue.

He said that for a start, it needed to be ascertained that human and democratic rights were observed.

Earlier this evening,European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso spoke to Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich by phone to condemn the use of force against protesters and urge an immediate end to violence.

"He conveyed his shock and dismay with the recent clashes in Ukraine which led to an important number of dead and injured people. He called for an immediate end of the violence and firmly condemned the use of force to solve the political crisis," the European Commission said in a statement.

Some 26 people, including nine policemen, have died in the streets of Kiev in the past 24 hours.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accused the pro-European opposition leaders of trying to seize power by force while European Union leaders condemned what they called "the unjustified use of excessive force by the Ukrainian authorities" and said they were urgently preparing targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown.

The White House urged Ukraine to pull back riot police, call a truce and talk to the opposition.

But the Ukrainian security services said they were launching an "anti-terrorist operation" across the country after the seizure of government buildings, arms and ammunition dumps by "extremist groups".

Protesters have been occupying central Kiev for almost three months since Yanukovich spurned a far-reaching trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15-billion Russian bailout instead.



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