Meanwhile the United States and Europe, which held private meetings with the opposition, exchanged angry words with Russia, accusing it of exactly the same thing - strong-arming Kiev into an unpopular alliance.
               
"Nowhere is the fight for a democratic, European future more important today than in Ukraine," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. "The United States and EU stand with the people of Ukraine in that fight."
               
He added that protesters believed their futures "do not have to lie with one country alone, and certainly not coerced".
               
Boxer-turned-opposition-leader Vitaly Klitschko told reporters at the annual security meeting in Munich: "I leave the conference stronger because I feel huge support from friends of Ukraine. Everyone is afraid that instability in one of the largest countries in Europe could bring instability to the whole region."
               
He called for urgent steps to defuse the violence, and said everything now hinged on the behaviour of President Viktor Yanukovich, whose decision two months ago not to sign an association agreement with the European Union triggered fierce anti-government protests centred on Kiev's Maidan square.

(Agencies)

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