Protests in Ukraine
Protests in Ukraine Reuters

The US has threatened Ukraine with sanctions over the violence in Kiev's Independence Square, according to Maariv.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing Thursday that the tensions in the country were a direct result of the government failing to acknowledge the "legitimate" concerns of the Ukrainian people, after tens of thousands have demonstrated in the square over the government's new anti-protest measures since Sunday night. Protestors claim the move is a direct violation of their rights to freedom of expression.

Washington has threatened economic consequences if talks between the two fail, according to the daily, and has called on the government to revoke the laws.

In the meantime, violence has also slowly seeped outside of the square, the New York Times reported Friday, with protestors occupying the regional administration building in Lviv. Lviv is a stronghold for Ukraine's European integration - the issue that set Kiev's first round of protests in motion.

Clashes were also reported between demonstrators and riot police in Cherkasy, a central Ukrainian city, and Rivne, in Western Ukraine. The protests are apparently uncoordinated but rising - especially after more reports surface of chilling police brutality. 

Reports of the exact nature of that brutality are varied. CNN notes that among the 4 dead, 2 have been beaten with objects not legally carried by riot police; while the Interior Ministry claims that unknown criminals or vagrants have entered into the fray, some reports suggest that the riot police have begun to ignore government regulations for anti-protest measures. The Times reports that some protestors - including prominent activist Igor Lutsenko - have allegedly been kidnapped from hospitals and taken to unknown locations by angry police officials; a video has also surfaced of a man stripped naked by police forces in the subzero temperatures as bystanders look on. 

One BBC reporter even caught live footage of riot police dragging a protestor's body through the snow.

CNN notes that the protestors' aims have changed dramatically since the early December protests, switching from a demand to re-establish Ukraine's connection with the European Union to calls for a sweeping change in the current government. 

Frustration rages after President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders finally met Wednesday and have been meeting since then - but no progress has apparently been made, according to various international media sources. 

Yanukovich has stood firm against opposition demands for the dismissal of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's government and the prosecution of the Interior Minister - both of whom protestors hold responsible for the brutal response by the police.

This round of violence erupted again in the urban center earlier this week, after Ukrainian police forces turned away a mass demonstration marching to Parliament. 

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