While Ukraine’s prime minister said the mass protests had got “out of control” and the situation “resembled a coup”, the president appealed for calm in an interview with journalists from four TV channels.
Viktor Yanukovych appeared to acknowledge the right to demonstrate and to free speech.
“As for the people who came out to the rallies, any show of public will is always confirmed by everybody’s freedom and right to speak their mind. It is important that these rallies have a peaceful character. It doesn’t matter if it is the representatives of the government, law enforcement agencies or the participants of the rallies – all must respect the law,” he said.
“I am convinced that a bad peace is better than a good war,” Viktor Yanukovych added.
The president also accused protesters of “hiding behind children” in occupying official buildings.
He called on government and opposition to unite in investigating events connected to mass rallies and identify what he called “provocateurs”.
The president’s younger son Viktor Yanukovych Jr, an MP with the ruling Party of Regions, has blamed protesters for violence towards the police.
Meanwhile it was reported that the two heads of the MP’s press service had resigned from their posts, citing the forceful dispersal of demonstrators as the main reason.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said “the violence by government authorities against peaceful demonstrators in Kiev on Saturday morning was unacceptable”.
He described reports of journalists and media being assaulted and targeted by security forces as “disturbing”.