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Harper expresses concern about violence in Ukraine

Anti-government protesters take cover under makeshift shields during clashes with riot police in Kiev on Jan. 25, 2014. AFP/Getty Images/Genya Savilov

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed concern about the escalating violence in Ukraine.

Harper made a mid-flight statement to the media shortly after his plane took off from Amman, Jordan, en route to Ottawa following his first visit to the Middle East.

The prime minister said the Conservative government is concerned by the “growing political conflict and violence” in Ukraine.

He added, however, that Canada understands why Ukrainians are resorting to violence given the actions of their current government “very much remind them of their anti-democratic and Soviet past.”

Harper added the government shares those concerns, and supports an immediate emergency debate in the House of Commons on the Ukrainian situation.

The prime minister also said Canada will continue to work with its allies and partners to determine an appropriate response.

Harper’s plane stopped in Germany for refuelling before the final leg of the flight home.

News reports said anti-government protesters seized a regional administration building Saturday, and officials warned police could storm the Kyiv city hall to free two policemen allegedly captured by demonstrators.

Protesters have occupied the city hall for nearly two months and turned it into a makeshift dormitory and headquarters.

The city hall is near both the site of protracted clashes between police and protesters over the past week and Independence Square, where demonstrators have set up an extensive tent camp and conducted round-the-clock protests since early December.