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Ukrainian President, Opposition Leaders Finish Talks As Police Battle Protesters

  • RFE/RL

KYIV -- Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych has met with opposition leaders as police battled antigovernment protesters in Kyiv and word spread of the first violent deaths as a result of the unrest.

The countries three main opposition leaders -- Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and Oleh Tyahnybok -- said there were no concrete results from the meeting, which lasted more than three hours.

The presidency described it as a "first step" in a negotiating process.

The talks came after at least two people were killed as a result of gunshot wounds.

Activists said the two men were shot dead by police, but the Interior Ministry said police did not use live ammunition.

They were the first fatalities since protests over Yanykovych's decision not to sign an association treaty with the European Union began more than two months ago.

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One of the victims was identified as Serhiy Nihoyan, a 20-year-old ethnic Armenian.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service said the other one was a Belarusian national whom sources identified as Mikhail Zhyzneuski, who was in his 20s. The Belarus Foreign Ministry said it was checking the report.

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The head of the Kyiv's health department and a doctor denied earlier reports that a third men had died after falling from a high structure near the site of the clashes.


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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for an immediate end to the violence and warned of possible consequences.

"We are generally concerned about where these developments are taking Ukraine," he said. "And we are continuing to follow closely these developments, as well as assessing possible actions by the European Union and consequences for our relations with that country."

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also strongly condemned the escalating violence.

The Polish Foreign Ministry has summoned the Ukrainian ambassador over the violence.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin accused the "extremist opposition" of violating the constitution. Referring to U.S. and European statements, he said Ukrainian authorities "face outside interference."

The U.S. Embassy said Washington had revoked the visas of several Ukrainians linked to violence against protesters. No names were released.
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Earlier in the day, police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and truncheons against protesters and also brought in an armored personnel carrier to help clear barricades. Protesters responded by throwing stones and petrol bombs and setting tires and garbage alight, sending thick black smoke into the sky.

The site of the continuing clashes, which entered their third day on January 22, is not far from Kyiv's Independence Square, where antigovernment protesters have been rallying peacefully for more than two months.

The latest violence erupted as Ukraine marked National Unification Day -- the day in 1919 that brought together the eastern and western parts of the country.


With reporting by AFP, pravda.com, Reuters, and AP
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