AMERICA has raised the prospect of placing sanctions on Ukraine after riot police moved against anti-government demonstrators, seemingly violating its pledges of restraint.
Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs representative, all but accused Victor Yanukovych, Ukraine's president, of misleading her in negotiations in Kiev that happened just hours before riot police launched a push to retake opposition-occupied areas of the city, including City Hall and Independence Square.
The crowd resisted the police onslaught in temperatures of -11C but Baroness Ashton, who was in Kiev for crisis talks on Ukraine's rejection of a strategic pact with Europe, said the authorities had crossed the line.
"I am deeply concerned about last night's action taken by riot police," she said. "In the long discussion I have had with the president, he reassured me that he was prepared to engage in dialogue and I urge him to do so. I have been very much impressed with the peaceful and courageous nature of the ongoing protests in support of European aspirations.
"I was among you," she added. "The authorities did not need to act under the cover of night."
America declared its "disgust" at the attempted crackdown, which also coincided with a visit by Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state, who toured Independence Square as riot police pulled back.
She said a crackdown on peaceful protesters was unacceptable among democratic nations.
Ms Nuland said she had met Mr Yanukovych and the two had held a "tough conversation but a realistic one".
"I made it absolutely clear to him that what happened last night was absolutely inadmissible in a democratic state," she said.
"We believe there is still a way out for Ukraine to save Ukraine's European future."
Last night, the US state department said it was considering all options, including sanctions.
"All policy options, including sanctions, are on the table, in our view, but obviously that still is being evaluated," said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Thousands of specialist riot police in black helmets used the cover of darkness in the early hours to advance on opposition positions.
At a stage in the centre of Independence Square, priests in black gowns chanted prayers while pop stars and political leaders implored police not to beat "peaceful protesters".
After some of the barricades and tents were dismantled, police and city workers began to remove debris with bulldozers. Policemen used what appeared to be chain saws to clear the barricades. But as the sun rose over Kiev in the morning, the police had not been able to drive back the protesters on the square or to storm the city administration building. Mykola Azarov, the prime minister, said the country was still willing to do a deal with Brussels, but only in return for billions of pounds in a bail-out. "We have determined its approximate size; euros 20?billion," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)