KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- OSCE Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier said Thursday from Kiev all member states, including Ukraine, are encouraged to protect fundamental civil freedoms.
The 20th regular ministerial conference for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe opened Thursday in Kiev with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara serving as the chairman-in-office.
Noting the recent unrest in Ukraine, Zannier said in his opening remarks the OSCE was "encouraging governments in all participating states, Ukraine being one of them, to uphold their OSCE commitments, including protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and respect for the rule of law."
Protests erupted in Ukraine last week when lawmakers opted to suspend efforts to sign free trade and association agreements with the European Union. Ukrainian leaders said the decision was made to protect their economic ties to Russia.
EU leaders expressed outrage this week over the excessive use of force by police in Kiev last weekend. More than 200 people were injured during the demonstrations.
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ranko Krivokapic said OSCE membership should be a driving force for democracy.
"Peaceful protests are an important tool of public expression [and] the right to assemble publicly and peacefully must remain completely protected," he said in a statement Thursday.