Deadly violence in Ukraine brings threat of sanctions and fears of civil war

At least 25 dead and hundreds more injured in Kiev; foreign minister calls for “dialogue”

Despite police assaults on Kiev's Independence Square, thousands of defiant protesters continued to battle riot police today. Clashes last night saw buildings set ablaze and more injuries.

Yesterday’s violence was the worst in three months of anti-government protests over Ukraine's divided loyalties between Russia and the West.

EU foreign ministers are meeting today to discuss targeted sanctions against the government of Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovitch

Yanukovych for his part threatened to crack down even harder on anti-government protesters.

The opposition “has crossed the line when they called people to arms,” Yanukovych said on his website today. “This is an outrageous violation of the law. My advisers happen to be trying to talk me into a tough scenario: the use of force. But I have always considered the use of force a false route.”

READ MORE: Foreign minister criticises undemocratic Ukrainian law

Yanukovych is seeking to end the crisis that has destabilised Ukraine for months. Activists last night repelled a police attempt to clear their main protest camp in central Kiev. Hundreds remained on Independence Square this morning, including reinforcements from the western city of Lviv, with squadrons of police ringing their burning barricades. The violence drew a sharp reaction from global leaders, including the foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard.

“The Ukrainian government must take responsibility to immediately enter a serious dialogue with the opposition on the need for constitutional amendments, a new broad-based government and the preparation of democratic and fair presidential elections," Lidegaard said in a statement.

Other EU nations echoed Lidgaard’s concern, with some calling for immediate sanctions against Yanukovych’s government.

Sanctions pending
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso today expressed "shock and utter dismay" at the violence and blamed Ukraine's "political leadership". He predicted the EU will impose sanctions as a result.

"We therefore expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and the use of excessive force can be agreed by our member states as a matter of urgency,” Barroso said in a statement. EU foreign ministers have been summoned to an emergency meeting in Brussels tomorrow to decide on a course of action on Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the West for the escalation of violence and called on the Ukrainian opposition to work with the government to find an exit from the crisis.

"What is happening is a direct result of the conniving politics of Western politicians and European bodies," the ministry said in a statement.