EU chair calls Ukraine protest crackdown 'reprehensible'

European Union chair Lithuania on Saturday condemned Kiev for forcefully dispersing opposition demonstrators calling for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's resignation after he failed to salvage a landmark EU deal.

Dozens of protesters were reported wounded in Ukraine's capital Saturday when baton-wielding police brutally broke up the crowd at a pro-EU rally.

"Use of force against peaceful protesters in the centre of Kiev is reprehensible," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

"We urge the Ukrainian government to respect human rights and ensure compliance with the principles of the rule of law. We are carefully following the events in Ukraine," he said in a statement.

Yanukovych left an EU summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Friday without signing a historic political and free trade agreement with the bloc.

Summit host Lithuania said it was disappointed after EU leaders failed to convince Yanukovych to sign the accord, which had been years in the making but was strongly opposed by Moscow.

The scrapping of the deal has sparked the biggest protests in Ukraine since the 2004 pro-West Orange Revolution.

Witnesses said Saturday that several dozen people might have been injured in the crackdown while local police said 31 protesters had been detained for hooliganism and for resisting officers.

EU leaders on Friday acknowledged the "unprecedented public support" for the planned EU-Ukraine deal in a joint declaration at the Vilnius summit.

"I would say to people not to lose their faith, not to lose their hope, not to give up in their values and their aspirations," EU envoy and former European Parliament president Pat Cox told reporters on Friday.