Opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko (L) and Arseny Yatsenyuk (R) meet in Kiev February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Kravchenko/Pool
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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accused pro-European opposition leaders on Wednesday of trying to seize power by force after at least 26 people died in the worst violence since the former Soviet republic gained independence.Protesters have been occupying central Kiev for almost three months since Yanukovich spurned a far-reaching trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15-billion Russian bailout.Ukraine's hryvnia currency, flirting with its lowest levels since the global credit crunch five years ago, weakened to beyond 9 to the dollar for the second time in February after the violence.A ministry official, quoted by Interfax, said 263 protesters were being treated for injuries and 342 police officers, mainly with gunshot wounds.In Brussels, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the 28-nation EU, at an emergency meeting on Thursday, would impose sanctions on those blamed for the bloodshed.The European Investment Bank, the EU's soft-loan arm, said it had frozen its activities in Ukraine due to the violence.In staunchly pro-European western Ukraine, protesters took over the regional authorities' headquarters in the cities of Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk, and the regional parliament building in Lviv.Ukraine has been rocked periodically by political turmoil since independence from the Soviet Union more than 22 years ago, but it has never experienced violence on this scale.
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