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Hollande calls for rapid sanctions after Ukraine night of violence

Anti-government protesters gather at a barricade near a fire during clashes with Interior Ministry members and riot police in central Kiev
Anti-government protesters gather at a barricade near a fire during clashes with Interior Ministry members and riot police in central Kiev Reuters/Maks Levin

French President François Hollande has called for rapid and targeted sanctions against those responsible for "unacceptable police violence" in Ukraine. At least 25 people were killed in fighting between protesters, police and government supporters in Kiev on Tuesday night.

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In a statement Hollande called for the emergency European Union foreign affairs ministers' meeting to be held on Thursday to decide on sanctions against those responsible for "police violence", which he judged "unacceptable".

The statement was issued after Hollande had talked over the phone to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Protesters, believed to be opponents of President Viktor Yanukovych, blocked a road on the Ukraine-Poland border on Wednesday, Polish customs officers reported.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday that the EU would consider tougher action, including sanctions against those deemed responsible, which the bloc has so far refused to do.

Russia blamed the violence on the opposition, as did Yanukovych, and journalists in Kiev reported violence on both sides with the dead not yet identified.

"France believes that those responsible must answer for their acts and that individual sanctions should be considered by the European Union," French government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning, adding that "responsibility [for the violence] must be established".

The French and German governments held a joint meeting on Wednesday afternoon and Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said sanctions would be discussed there.

Fabius was due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry, while Hollande was to give a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the joint cabinet meeting.

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