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Ukraine summons German ambassador after Steinmeier comments

Germany has raised the possibility of sanctions on Ukraine if it refuses to negotiate a solution to the current crisis. As a result, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has summoned the German ambassador to Kyiv.

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The Ukrainian government summoned German Ambassador Christof Weil on Tuesday after Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested that the country could face sanctions for its continued repressive response to protests.

Ukraine's parliament was also set to convene on Tuesday in an effort to end the political standoff that has gripped Kyiv since November. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was expected to meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders.

Ahead of renewed talks, Steinmeier had said on Monday that Germany remained ready to take decisive action against Ukraine's leadership to persuade the country to work with the opposition to resolve the political standoff.

Asked about opposition calls for sanctions on the Ukrainian leadership, Steinmeier said that "sanctions should be now be displayed as a threat."

Steinmeier added that, though there had been a "small moves that were reason for a little hope" in recent days, Ukraine "remains a powder keg, and I hope that neither side sets it off."

Possible aid

Earlier on Monday, the European Union and the United States had confirmed reports that they were looking at options for providing financial assistance to Ukraine if the country managed to resolve its political crisis.

"What we can do for a country in difficulties, a country facing enormous challenges, whether we can do a little more in this critical phase, that's what we're currently discussing with other partners," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.

Later came confirmation from the United States, with State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki saying Washington was in "preliminary" discussions with the EU regarding possible financial aid for Ukraine.

"The next step is the creation of a new government, and then we will consider what support we would be able to and prepared to provide," she said.

Both Barroso and Steinmeier warned against being drawn into a sort of bidding war in which aid is traded for influence over Ukraine's political future.

The current political unrest in Ukraine was sparked by President Yanukovych's decision in November to balk at signing an Association Agreement with the European Union. Shortly afterwards, he agreed to accept a loans package worth about $15 billion (11 billion euros) from Russia.

Yanukovych back from sick leave

On Monday, Yanukovych marked his return to work following a brief hospital stay with a video address in which he accused protesters occupying government buildings of vandalism.

"We must say no to extremism, radicalism, the fanning of enmity in society, which is the basis of the political fight against the authorities," Yanukovych said.

Meanwhile, the leading opposition figure Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the protesters were seeking a return to the constitution enacted after the Ukraine's 2004 "Orange Revolution." Yatsenyuk said this would "cancel the dictatorial powers of the president and transfer the right of governing the country to the Ukrainian people."

pfd/jr (dpa, Reuters)

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