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Published: Thursday January 23, 2014 MYT 9:10:02 PM
Updated: Thursday January 23, 2014 MYT 9:11:04 PM

Merkel outraged over Ukraine crackdown

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel deliver a statement before a two-day working session of the German cabinet at the Meseberg government guesthouse some 60 km (37 miles) north of Berlin January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel deliver a statement before a two-day working session of the German cabinet at the Meseberg government guesthouse some 60 km (37 miles) north of Berlin January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

MESEBERG, Germany (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed outrage on Thursday over the Ukraine government's crackdown on protesters but said it would be wrong for Europe to respond to the violence with sanctions at this stage.

"We expect the government in Ukraine to ensure democratic freedoms, notably the right to demonstrate, the protection of lives and the end of the use of force," Merkel said at a news conference following a two-day cabinet meeting north of Berlin.

"We are greatly worried, and not only worried, but also outraged at the way laws have been pushed through that call these freedoms into question."

She called for new talks between the government of President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition, but rejected the idea of imposing sanctions, saying the focus should be on de-escalation and dialogue.

Protests against the four-year rule of Yanukovich started in November after he opted out of a free-trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer economic ties with Russia.

The demonstrations turned more violent on Sunday after the introduction of sweeping anti-protest legislation. Hard-core radicals broke away from the main protest area in the capital Kiev and clashed violently with riot police.

Three people have been killed on the side of the protesters - two of them from gunshot wounds - and more than 150 police injured.

After an initial round of talks on Wednesday failed, Yanukovich and opposition leaders, including former boxer Vitaly Klitschko, were due to hold more talks on Thursday.

(Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Stephen Brown)

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