Feb 19 - The escalating crisis in Ukraine has topped agendas at key meetings in Europe. As Joanna Partridge reports the deaths of at least 26 people in violent clashes could lead to western sanctions.
There's no stopping the protesters. After the deaths of at least 26 people in Ukraine's worst day of violence since gaining independence, they remained in Kiev's Maidan Square . They've been there for almost three months now - since President Viktor Yanukovich turned down a trade deal with the European Union and accepted a $15 billion Russian bailout instead. Yanukovich's accused pro-European opposition leaders of trying to seize power by force. And the crisis is becoming a major concern for EU leaders. They're now preparing sanctions against those responsible for the crack down. Jose Manuel Barroso is European Commission President. SOUNDBITE: (English) EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT, JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, SAYING: "We expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force can be agreed by our Member States and we hope they consider this as a matter of urgency as it was already proposed by the High Representative/Vice President of the Commission Catherine Ashton." The crisis topped the agenda as German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande met for talks. EU foreign ministers will also hold an emergency meeting on Thursday. And the European Investment Bank's President says it's frozen its activities in Ukraine for now. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK PRESIDENT WERNER HOYER, SAYING: "For the time being, the situation is so cruel that it would be politically the wrong signal but also irresponsible vis-à-vis the people we asked to do the job to be active in business in Ukraine and I think it would be completely the wrong signal." With a population of 46 million the country already had plenty of economic problems. It's now in the middle of a tug-of-war between Russia and the West. Moscow began paying aid again to Kiev on Monday, with a $2 million cash injection. Christian Lawrence is from Rabobank. SOUNDBITE: Christian Lawrence, Emerging Markets FX Strategist, Rabobank, saying (English): "Russia is putting quite a bit of money on the table, whereas the EU doesn't provide money in that respect as a way of tempting a country towards the European Union, that's just not the way it works. So you've very much got this pull and push. It's certainly very worrying. Ukraine is a very divided country, western and east Ukraine are very very different places with very different ideologies and it's certainly something that's not going to be resolved quickly." The unrest has also now spread to at least three cities in the western part of Ukraine. In Kiev, the protesters say they have no intention of going anywhere, keeping the economy under pressure and people at home and abroad fearful of more violence.