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Kyiv Hosts OSCE Meeting As Protests Continue


German acting Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (left) greets Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov during the OSCE meeting in Kyiv on December 5.
German acting Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (left) greets Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov during the OSCE meeting in Kyiv on December 5.
Ukraine is hosting top foreign diplomats as protests continue over the government's rejection of an agreement on closer ties with the EU.

Western diplomats, attending the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) foreign ministers' meeting in Kyiv on December 5, urged the government to respect the protests.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said the government should "listen to the voices of its people."

"This is Ukraine's moment to meet the aspirations of its people or to disappoint them and risk descending into chaos and violence. What happens here matters to all of us and to this organization," Nuland added.

"And the voices of the Ukrainian people today echo those of so many who came before them, here and in other parts of the OSCE space throughout this organization's history."

Nuland is representing the United States after Secretary of State John Kerry skipped the meeting.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, in an apparent reference to Russia, denounced as "simply unacceptable" what he called "the threats and the use of economic pressure" on Ukraine.

"We, Europeans, are looking to Ukraine. We are in no way indifferent to the fate of Ukraine and to the reaction at pro-European protests," he said. "This is an indicator for how the Ukrainian chair of the OSCE is commissioned to our common values."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced Western reaction to Ukraine's rejection of the EU deal as "hysterics."

"I want to again confirm our position that every issue should be dealt with within the constitutional framework. To be honest, we were very surprised by some of the speeches [delivered by OSCE ministers] this morning that missed the agenda of our gathering," Lavrov said.

"This is exactly that sort of finger-pointing that is not acceptable for the OSCE because it fundamentally clashes with the founding principles [of the organization] agreed upon 40 years ago."

WATCH: Ukrainian antigovernment protests go into third week.
Ukrainian Antigovernment Protests Go Into Third Week
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Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said his government was ready for a dialogue with the opposition, but also denounced what he called "extremist forces" picketing government buildings in Kyiv.

"Obviously this is a temporary difficulty. And we say to those who are doing that -- they are breaking the law," Azarov said.

"This is not a European path to development, and we are appealing to them to solve all disputed issues at the negotiating table."

The government's decision to suspend a long-anticipated Association Agreement with the EU last week, just days before the deal was supposed to be signed, sparked the biggest protests in Ukraine since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

The opposition is demanding the resignation of the government and an early election over the rejection, as well as over a violent police crackdown on demonstrators.

Several thousand protesters remained on Kyiv's Independence Square on December 5, while others continued to besiege government buildings and opposition lawmakers blocked a regular parliamentary session.

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The OSCE's representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, on December 5 denounced the violence against journalists during the police crackdown on demonstrators. About 40 Ukrainian and international journalists were assaulted and injured during the police action.

"I'm also confident, and I hope that -- [as] several investigations into beatings have been opened by the prosecutor -- that the perpetrators will be brought to justice very soon," Mijatovic said.

Meanwhile, President Viktor Yanukovych, who is on an official visit to China, said that deals signed with Beijing may bring in about $8 billion in much-needed investment in Ukraine.

When Yanukovych froze the long-anticipated agreement with the EU, he said Ukraine could not afford the likely damage it would cause to its close trade ties with Russia, which had opposed the deal.

The EU has said it is ready to receive a Ukrainian delegation -- at Yanukovych's request -- to discuss aspects of the implementation of the Association Agreement, but will not renegotiate the accord.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso "confirmed our readiness to receive such a delegation and to discuss the various aspects of the implementation of the Association Agreement, obviously together with the Deep and Comprehensive Free-Trade Area part," Maja Kocijancic, EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokeswoman, told RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent on December 5.

"And to prepare this visit [of such a delegation], we will have a technical meeting today to set the ground for the meeting that President Barroso and President Yanukovych talked about."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on December 5 called on Western countries to impose sanctions against Yanukovych, saying sanctions are "the only language he understands."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jowziak
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