Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has signed into force a set of tough new laws against public protests despite an outcry from Western governments which have criticized them as anti-democratic.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said on Friday she was "deeply concerned'' by the legislation and called on Yanukovich to revise it. Hours later, the official website of Ukraine's president said the laws were signed by Yanukovich.
Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters in Berlin that the decision would "inevitably have consequences for the cooperation with the European Union.'' He did not give further specifics.
In a statement released late on Thursday, the U.S. State Department called the laws "undemocratic" and said they contradict Ukraine's aspiration to a European future.
The new legislation, passed by the Parliament on Thursday, introduces punishment of up to five years in prison to people who blockade public buildings, and possible arrest of protesters who wear masks or helmets.
Other provisions included clauses which target non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as "foreign agents" if they receive any funding from abroad and a provision making dissemination of slander on the Internet punishable by a year of corrective labor.
Carl Bildt, Swedish foreign minister, said on Twitter on Friday that the new bills lead to a situation where "there can be no business as usual with Kiev."
The opposition has staged nearly two months of protests in a central Kiev square in response to Yanukovich's ditching of a key pact with the European Union and striking a strategic partnership with powerful neighbor Russia instead.
Al Jazeera and wire services