European, Russian press split on Ukraine events

People look at protesters who were killed in clashes with police in Kiev"s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country"s current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Image copyright AP
Image caption Dozens have been killed in clashes with police in Kiev

Pictures of Thursday's dramatic and bloody events in Kiev dominate the front pages of Europe's main dailies. Editorials and commentaries consider the implications of the violent upsurge and wonder where things go from here.

Events in Ukraine also figure large on Russian front pages, though many commentators there offer a very different take on them, with the violence by protesters and the role of Western powers coming in for scathing criticism.

"Kiev burns, it's civil war" says the front page of Italy's La Repubblica, above a graphic photo of the bodies of dead protesters in the Ukrainian capital. It's a sentiment echoed widely on the front pages of other dailies.

"Sharpshooters in Kiev hunt down protesters" says the front page of Germany's Die Welt. "Ukraine: diplomatic pressure to stop the bloodbath" is the lead in France's Le Figaro.

The front page of Spain's La Razon reads "War returns to Europe", while El Pais leads with "The Ukrainian regime responds to the opposition with a bloodbath".

Russian pro-government daily Izvestiya's headline is "Now it's definitely a war". Popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets' take is "Mourning Kiev style: Dozens of new victims".

"Orgy of violence"

"Why are people dying in Kiev in 2014, 23 years after Ukraine peacefully achieved independence?" asks an editorial in France's Le Monde.

"The question is whether or not countries on the fringes of the former Soviet empire are free to conclude partnership agreements with the EU and more generally, to freely decide on their destiny without a Russian veto... People are dying in Kiev because the Kremlin is seeking to impose a system of limited sovereignty on 'nearby countries'," it says.

Writing in Germany's Die Welt, Torsten Krauel says: "The bloodshed in Kiev is the worst orgy of violence on European soil since the Balkan Wars 20 years ago. Letting snipers loose on unarmed people was last seen in Sarajevo in 1994... His killer instincts mean the Ukrainian president should be sent... to the international court in The Hague, and fast."

"In the talks between President Yanukovich and the opposition an agreement is said to have been reached. But sadly, we have to be doubtful, for a start because only the presidency has announced the compromise... The Ukrainian president is notorious for breaking his word," says Reinhard Veser in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Mario Platero, writing in Italian business daily Il Sole-24 Ore, sees Washington "remaining aloof" for the moment from events in Ukraine.

"While for Vladimir Putin and for Russia absolute control of Ukraine is a vital question in the strategic sphere, for Obama and for a United States that is tired in 2014, Ukraine is a distant problem that involves their European allies, above all... While Europe has approved sanctions, the United States is refraining. In short, in this instance Europe is the one that has to handle the hot potato," he writes.

"Armed goons"

The Russian media focus on what they see as Western double standards on events in Ukraine. A commentary by Yelena Gamayun in popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets is scathing.

"All these [Western politicians] are demanding that the Ukrainian authorities - that is, Yanukovych - stop the violence immediately. By removing the police from the streets of Kiev and other cities, no less. Don't they understand what would happen next?" she asks.

"Government buildings would be set on fire and destroyed. Anyone the 'peaceful protesters' deem disloyal would be lined up in Independence Square on their knees and subjected to sophisticated mockery - if not killed outright. A dictatorship of aggressive armed goons would be established in the capital, and then across the country."

Yevgeniy Shestakov, writing in Russian state-owned daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, takes a similar line.

"Even though people have been killed in the disorder in Kiev, Western politicians are refusing to acknowledge the Ukrainian opposition's responsibility for renewed conflict. Contrary to photographic evidence, eyewitness testimony and plain common sense, they are blaming the violence on the Ukrainian leadership alone," he writes

"[They] propose that the Ukrainian authorities should surrender to a few thousand armed militants who have come to Kiev from Ukraine's western regions. But will the east and south consent to power being seized by force like this? Or don't the Western mediators understand that their proposed 'peaceful path' would trigger a civil conflict in Ukraine and the break-up of the country? This has already happened in Libya," he writes.

An article in Russian business daily Kommersant too is critical. "Only a day earlier, the leading Western powers were talking of the need to involve Russia in Ukrainian mediation efforts. At the cumulative moment of the Ukrainian crisis, however, the West threw the weight of its authority onto the scales, trying to tilt the confrontation's outcome in the opposition's favour," it says.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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