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Ukrainian Protesters Block Government Buildings

Thousands of Ukrainian protesters blocked access to the country's main government buildings Monday in an attempt to bring down the government of President Viktor Yanukovych over his refusal to sign a free trade pact with the European Union.

Hundreds of people blocked the entrance to the Cabinet and central bank buildings in Kyiv Monday, a day after more than 100,000 protesters marched through the capital.

Violence broke out Sunday when police used tear gas and flash grenades after some marchers tried to storm a government building. More than 200 people were hurt.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Monday that the protests were "out of control" and had "all the signs of a coup."

Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, meanwhile, told reporters that early elections are the only way to end the standoff.

Also Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the violence by Ukrainian authorities against protesters in Kyiv Saturday was "unacceptable." He said the United States certainly does not consider peaceful protests a coup attempt.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties in Ukraine to show restraint, avoid violence and open meaningful dialogue.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also called for restraint by both sides.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key backer of Mr. Yanukovych, said the protests in Ukraine looked more like "pogroms than a revolution."

The demonstrations have been growing since November 21 when the Ukrainian president backed out of the EU trade deal, saying the country needed to continue close ties with Russia.

European news reports say the EU-Ukraine deal began unraveling in late October when Moscow demanded that cash-strapped Kyiv immediately make full payment of a nearly $1 billion natural gas bill, or face a gas cutoff as winter hits the region.

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