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French, German, Polish ministers to visit Ukraine Thursday

PARIS (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland will travel to Kiev on Thursday to assess the situation before a meeting in Brussels to decide whether to impose EU sanctions on Ukraine, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich accused pro-European opposition leaders of trying to seize power by force after at least 26 people died in the worst violence since the former Soviet republic gained independence.

"With my Polish and German colleagues we have decided to go to Kiev tomorrow morning ... to gather the latest information before the meeting in Brussels," Fabius said alongside U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry said the United States was working closely with the European Union on the Ukraine crisis.

"President Yanukovich has the opportunity to make a choice. The choice is between protecting the people that he serves ... and (the) choice for compromise and dialogue versus violence and mayhem," Kerry said.

"We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our friends in Europe and elsewhere in order to try to create the environment for compromise."

After Fabius' comments, Russia said its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had spoken by telephone on Wednesday with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier about Ukraine.

"He (Lavrov) called on the European Union partners to use their close and everyday contacts with the opposition to urge it to cooperate with the Ukrainian authorities, to comply with agreements reached and to decisively distance itself from radical forces unleashing bloody riots and, in fact, embarking on the route to a coup," the foreign ministry statement said.

(Reporting By John Irish and Arshad Mohammed, additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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