UPDATE 1-Russia says West to blame for worsening situation in Ukraine

Tue Feb 18, 2014 8:10am EST

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MOSCOW Feb 18 (Reuters) - Russia blamed the West on Tuesday for an escalation of tension in Ukraine, saying European politicians had encouraged "radical forces" in the former Soviet republic by failing to condemn their actions.

"The atmosphere has worsened sharply in central Kiev," the Russian Foreign Ministry said after anti-government protesters clashed with police, torched vehicles and threw stones in the worst violence in the Ukrainian capital in three weeks.

"What is happening is the direct result of connivance by Western politicians and European structures that have shut their eyes on the aggressive actions of radical forces from the very beginning of the crisis," it said in a statement.

Russia has repeatedly accused the European Union and the United States of interfering in Ukraine, where the government's decision to shelve plans to sign pacts with the EU and improve ties with Moscow instead sparked huge protests.

The Russian ministry called on the Ukrainian opposition to "refrain from threats and ultimatums and establish a substantive dialogue with the authorities with the aim of extricating the country from deep crisis."

Tuesday's clashes in Kiev broke out after protesters marched to the parliament building to press opposition leaders' calls for President Viktor Yanukovich to relinquish what they call his "dictatorial" powers.

Russia on Monday said it was giving Ukraine $2 billion, part of a $15 billion aid package.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Writing by Steve Gutterman Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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