Press worried as tension persists in Kiev

Ukrainian front pages
Image caption A selection of Ukrainian front pages

There is much soul-searching in the regional press after force was used by the Ukrainian government earlier this week in an attempt to remove pro-EU demonstrators from parts of Kiev.

A state-run daily in Ukraine calls for calm, but a pro-opposition daily celebrates a "triumph" after the protesters managed to fend off the police.

The Russian government's mouthpiece points the finger of blame at the EU and the Ukrainian opposition. But both Russian and Ukrainian commentators are puzzled by President Viktor Yanukovych's handling of the conflict.

'Where is the logic?'

Image caption Ukrainian paper Den suggests that Viktor Yanukovych is losing control

In Ukraine, the government's mouthpiece Uryadovyy Kuryer calls for restraint. "We all need to calm down and reach an agreement," says the main front-page headline, quoting Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Pro-opposition daily Ukrayina Moloda conveys a different sentiment with its main headline "Maydan's triumph", referring to the protest camp in Kiev. "People have managed to repel a storm by riot police brought to Kiev from all over Ukraine, forcing them to retreat ignominiously," the paper declares.

The broadsheet Den is baffled by the use of force against the protesters in Kiev. "Where is the logic? Where is common sense?" it asks. "Why try to disperse Maydan by force?" One possible answer, the daily suggests, is that control is slipping out of Mr Yanukovych's hands.

A commentator in the tabloid Segodnya argues that the flexing of police muscle in central Kiev could have been a gesture towards Russia. "They wanted to clear Maydan deliberately in the presence of Western diplomats. Possibly, to show Russia - from which they expect financial support - that the authorities are in control of the situation in Ukraine," pundit Vadym Karasyov tells the paper.

Pro-EU 'coup'

According to the Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the protests in Kiev are on the wane. "An attempt to carry out a coup under the European flag and with the use of political techniques 'made in Europe' has failed in Ukraine," the paper says.

It also accuses EU officials, as well as the opposition in Kiev, of thwarting the Ukrainian government's reconciliation efforts. "European politicians, almost all of whom called on President Viktor Yanukovych to engage in dialogue with his political opponents, in practice did all they could to prevent this dialogue from happening," Rossiyskaya Gazeta deplores.

The independent daily Kommersant disagrees. According to the paper, it is the government's attempts to remove protesters from central Kiev that "may bring to naught efforts to organize a round-table discussion between the authorities and the opposition".

An article in the centrist Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta takes a similar line. "They say in Kiev that Yanukovych's team are heating up and increasing the protest movement by their actions," it says. "No experts can explain why this is happening."

'Infernal machine'

Poland's Rzeczpospolita wonders whether the Ukrainian president "crossed a red line" by using force against the protesters. "Has he become a leader with whom a respectable Western politician cannot appear in the same photo?" the daily asks. But it suggests the answer is "no", because "the assault on protesters was not bloody enough to boycott the Ukrainian president".

By contrast, a blog on the website of French newspaper Le Figaro suggests that Mr Yanukovych did cross an important line. "By too much wanting to exploit the rivalry between Russia and the European Union, the Ukrainian president has sent an infernal machine in motion which threatens to carry him along and, beyond that, to put an end to the unity of his country," writes Pierre Rousselin.

Germany's Spiegel Online observes that both sides in the conflict in Ukraine "feel far too strong to give up". But, according to the news website, they are also "too weak to decide the struggle for good". "The deadlock is delicate. It threatens to lead to an escalation in the situation if hotheads on either side take the initiative," Spiegel Online says.

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily is critical of the government in Ukraine. "The Yanukovych regime has created at least the appearance of wanting to violently break up a demonstration that has for the most part been a model of peacefulness, and as a result it has deepened its isolation," the paper says.

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