Ukraine's Yanukovych tells European Commission no state of emergency: EU official

BRUSSELS, Jan 23, 2014 (AFP) - Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has told European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso he does not plan to introduce a state of emergency to curb violent protests in Kiev, the Commission said on Thursday.

The two men talked by telephone and the president "reassured Barroso that it was not foreseen to install a state of emergency in Ukraine," Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said.

For his part, Mr Barroso urged Mr Yanukovych "to engage in dialogue at the highest level" ahead of more talks later on Thursday with opposition leaders in Kiev.

Amid speculation that the EU was considering possible sanctions against Ukraine, Mr Bailly said Brussels for the time being wanted to "give a political dialogue every chance".

"We want to see the situation calm down, the ending of violence against peaceful demonstrators and journalists," Mr Bailly said.

The EU "wanted to help" the Ukrainian dialogue, he said, with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele due to visit Kiev on Friday while EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton may travel there next week.

Asked specifically about the use of sanctions, Mr Bailly stressed that the priority for Brussels was "not to redefine the relationship with Ukraine".

At the same time, he said Mr Barroso had noted during his conversation with Mr Yanukovych that "if the situation is not stabilised," then the EU would "assess the possible consequences on the relationship".

Washington for its part announced on Wednesday a first set of sanctions against Kiev, withdrawing visas from individuals implicated in the violence.

In Kiev meanwhile, the opposition agreed to an eight-hour truce with security forces after five days of deadly fighting but threatened to go on the attack if the government failed to agree concessions in further talks.

The demonstrations first begun in late November when Mr Yanukovych at the last moment ditched an association accord with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia, Ukraine's Soviet-era master.

The protests had appeared to be tailing off but burst violently back into life after Mr Yanukovych pushed through tough curbs on the right to assembly and others earlier this month.