By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– Ukraine’s government has threatened to impose a state of emergency as unrest spreads across the former Soviet nation, while Ukrainians remember as many as four demonstrators who died in clashes between anti-government protesters and police.
In a statement, Ukraine’s Justice minister warned anti-government protesters occupying her ministry that she will call for a state of emergency if they do no leave. Elena Lukash told local media she would ask the National Security and Defense Council to introduce the measures.
Protesters seized the building in the capital Kiev late on Sunday and set up barricades outside with bags of snow.
The threat of a state of emergency seems at odds with previous pledges by President Viktor Yanukovich in last week’s phone conversation with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
“He also reassured President Barosso that it was not foreseen to install a state of emergency in Ukraine,” said Olivier Bailley, a commission spokesman.
Bailley added that the EU is considering actions against Ukraine “if the situation is not stabilized”.
Protests are spreading across Ukraine, with activists taking over municipal buildings in up to 10 cities. Fresh unrest has been reported in the country’s east, north and south.
The new tensions come after opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk rejected Yanukovych’s offer to become prime minister.
Heavyweight boxing champion-turned opposition leader Vitali Klitschko also refused to become vice prime minister.
They said they first want their demands to be met, including early presidential elections and the release of political prisoners, such as former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The opposition and demonstrators braving freezing temperatures also seek closer ties with the EU.
Yanukovich had refused to sign the EU Association Agreement, opting instead for a closer relationship with Russia, in exchange for a $15-billion bailout.
Amid all the tensions there was also a moment of reflection on Sunday. Thousands of demonstrators remembered those who were killed in recent fighting with police, as Pope Francis called for an end to the violence.