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European Investment Bank freezes activities in Ukraine over violence

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Investment Bank (EIB) said on Wednesday it had frozen its activities in Ukraine after at least 26 people died in the worst violence since the former Soviet republic gained independence.

"For the time being the situation is so cruel that it would be politically the wrong signal, but also irresponsible vis-a-vis the people we asked to do the job, to be active on business in Ukraine," EIB President Werner Hoyer told a news conference.

The bank's recent activities in Ukraine include the extension of a metro line, modernisation of air traffic control facilities and a credit line designed to finance small and medium-scale projects.

Finance contracts it signed with Ukraine between 2007 and 2013 totalled 2.149 billion euros (£1.7 billion).

The European Union, which controls the EIB, said earlier it was moving to impose sanctions on officials who ordered the use of force against Ukrainian protesters.

Hoyer said the bank had put its activities on hold and would wait to see how the situation in Kiev developed.

"We are presently not active with further projects because we need to know in what political environment we are going to be able to move in the future," Hoyer said after presenting the bank's 2013 results to media in Brussels.

"For the time being we do not negotiate. There was (a) plan for exploring a couple of fields of investor activities, which would require travel to Ukraine and I stopped that last night," he said.

Hoyer said he will now wait for an official response from an extraordinary meeting of the European Union's foreign ministers due on Thursday before deciding on further actions.

"I think it would be completely the wrong signal to appear as being the ones who do business as usual in Ukraine while the people on the streets of Kiev, by whom and whyever, are being slaughtered," he said.

(Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by John Stonestreet)