Ukraine President says Kiev unrest is a threat to whole country

KIEV (AFP) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Monday that clashes between police and protesters in the capital Kiev threatened the entire country, as he made a call for dialogue.

"I am convinced that such phenomena are a threat not only to the public in Kiev but all of Ukraine," Mr Yanukovych said in an address to the nation published on the presidential website.

"I urge dialogue, compromise and calm in our native land," he said in his first public comments on the violence.

The 63-year-old leader stressed that he had previously allowed protests against his decision to ditch a key pact with the EU to take place, but now his patience might be running out.

"I treated your participation in mass rallies with understanding, I expressed readiness to find ways to solve the existing contradictions," he said, slamming the opposition.

"I ask you not to follow those who urge violence, who are seeking to provoke a split between the state and society."

A major rally against draconian new curbs on protests on Sunday descended into unprecedented clashes with police in which more than 200 people were wounded.

Three main opposition leaders including former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko have urged their supporters to refrain from violence.

But jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko came out in support of those fighting police, saying she would be with them if she could.

In a response to Mr Yanukovych's call, Ms Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party said the opposition leaders were ready for dialogue but stressed they wanted to conduct talks with Mr Yanukovych, not his aides.

They have also renewed calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and early elections.

Among other conditions are the annulment of the new controversial anti-protest legislation and Ms Tymoshenko's release from prison.

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