* Truce called after night of violence
* Protesters allow only 'essential staff' into energy
* Big anti-government rally expected over weekend
* Interior minister says opposition does not control
By Richard Balmforth and Jack Stubbs
KIEV, Jan 25 Anti-government protesters called
an uneasy truce in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Saturday after
violent overnight clashes with police, but a separate group made
an attempt to take over the main energy ministry building.
Radical protesters overnight lobbed petrol bombs, fireworks
and other projectiles at police lines, despite apparent
concessions by President Viktor Yanukovich to the opposition.
Major rallies were expected to take place in the centre of
Kiev later this weekend despite promises by Yanukovich to
reshuffle the government and promote changes to sweeping
The violence near Dynamo Kiev football stadium, the new
flashpoint in two months of unrest convulsing the former Soviet
republic, left fires burning and smoke billowing over the area.
Protesters kept up a drum-beat of sticks on corrugated metal.
Though the violence died out in early morning after a
negotiated truce, about half a mile away (one kilometre away),
protesters stormed into the energy ministry.
"There was an attempt to seize the building. About 100
people came, armed. I went to them and said that if they did not
peacefully leave the building, then the whole energy system of
Ukraine could collapse," Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky told
Reuters by telephone.
Stavytsky, who was shown on TV Fifth Channel angrily
remonstrating with a black-helmeted activist, added: ""What is
taking place is a direct threat to the whole Ukrainian energy
A group of masked men wearing battle-fatigues and sticks
maintained a blockade outside the building.
"We are here to check who goes in an out. We are allowing
through only staff who are absolutely essential for the safe
running of the ministry," one of them, 23-year-old Andriy, told
Hundreds of activists have already occupied City Hall and
the agricultural ministry, both close to the energy ministry
building, in increasingly violent protests against Yanukovich's
Though the protest movement - known as the "EuroMaidan" - is
largely peaceful, a hardcore of radicals have been fighting
pitched battles with police away from the main protest on
Tension remained high with the opposition raising the
prospect of a state of emergency being declared and the interior
minister admonishing the opposition leaders for not reining in
"They can no longer control the radical elements who have
occupied government buildings and are promoting violence," said
Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko in a statement after the
He urged the international community not to "turn a blind
eye' to what was taking place.
Overnight one policeman was shot in the head and three more
were kidnapped on Independence Square, the statement said.
Security forces believe they are being held in the occupied
City Hall and have demanded their immediate release.
In a joint statement, the three main opposition leaders,
including boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko added to
tension ahead of an expected big rally on Sunday, saying they
had information the Yanukovich leadership was preparing to
introduce a state of emergency.
"The centre of national resistance has reliable information
that the presidential administration has prepared a decision to
introduce a state of emergency and 'clear out' the Maidan," they
said in a statement.
Yanukovich's signature on such a decree would be
authorisation for "the shooting of hundreds of people, the
beginning of war by the authorities against their own people".
The United States has warned Yanukovich his failure to
de-escalate the standoff could have "consequences" for its
relationship with Ukraine. Germany, France and other Western
governments have also urged him to talk to the opposition.
Russia on Saturday stepped up its warnings against
international interference in Ukraine, telling European Union
officials to prevent outside meddling and cautioning the United
States against inflammatory statements.
"I told (U.S. Secretary of State) John Kerry that is very
important now not to interfere in the process and to avoid any
statements that will only heat up the situation," said Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"I hoped he heard me," he said, in an interview with Vesti v
Subbotu state television news programme.
The EU's point man on Ukraine, Stefan Fule, who was in Kiev
on Friday and met Yanukovich as well as opposition leaders, said
his talks "showed the need for a series of concrete steps to
first start to rebuild trust of people by stopping the spiral of
violence and intimidation".
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is scheduled to
visit Kiev next week.