Ukraine PM Mykola Azarov warns of force to end protests

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has suggested the security services could use more force to end anti-government protests.

Ukrainian police will use force against protesters if unrest continues, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has warned.

He told Russian TV that that the government may have no choice but to use anti-protest laws that came into force on Wednesday if "provocateurs" do not stop inciting clashes.

The legislation allows the government to jail people for five years for blockading public buildings.

Hundreds of people have been injured during two nights of clashes in Kiev.

On Tuesday lines of riot police held the road leading up to parliament, behind burnt-out buses and barricades. But overnight rioting was less ferocious than the previous two nights, the BBC's Daniel Sandford in Kiev says.

Protesters have been camped out in Kiev since late November, angered by the government's turn to Moscow and its rejection of a planned treaty with the EU.

Analysis

It is vital to note that this battle, though restricted at the moment, may only be the beginning.

The conflict could move beyond its isolated location, especially if authorities decide to crack down on the movement, as they now are threatening to do.

With the clashes - which represent not only an escalation in the protest movement, but are also the worst in Ukraine's post-Soviet history - the country's political deadlock has moved even further into uncharted waters.

Ukraine's interior ministry says 32 protesters have been arrested, of whom 13 could face up to 15 years in jail for creating "mass disturbances", local media reported.

"If the provocateurs do not stop, then the authorities will have no other choice but to use force under the law to protect our people," Mr Azarov told state broadcaster Russia 24 late on Tuesday.

'Paid thugs'

The violence has been restricted to a small area around Hrushevskyy Street, close to the main protest encampment at Maidan (or Independence Square), with most of the rest of the city functioning normally, say correspondents.

Peaceful protesters have blamed a little-known far-right group, Right Sector, for carrying out the violence.

Former boxing champion and opposition figure Vitali Klitschko has also accused the government of paying thugs nicknamed "titushki" to delegitimise the protests and create a pretext for the imposition of a state of emergency.

BBC Russian spoke to several suspected "titushki" detained by the opposition activists.

One, a student called Nikolai Ignatenko, said: "We weren't told anything about what to do. We stood by the metro and waited. They gave us hammers - that's all".

Artyom Nemchenko, a college student, said he had done it for money after seeing an offer online, and that they had been instructed to "stir up trouble".

The new protest laws prescribe jail terms for anyone blockading public buildings, and ban the wearing of masks or helmets at demonstrations.

They also outlaw unauthorised tents in public areas.

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