A handful of anti-government protesters have taken shelter inside the Canadian Embassy in Ukraine's capital after riot police barged into a large opposition camp with stun grenades and water cannons.

Fewer than a dozen protesters sought refuge Tuesday in the reception area of the embassy in Kyiv to escape the violent crackdown.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's office says they are peaceful and have not caused any damage or harm to staff.

Canadian Embassy workers are safe and accounted for, spokesman Adam Hodge said.

"We hope that the situation improves quickly so that they can safely leave the embassy premises at the earliest possible opportunity," Hodge said in an email.

Ukraine protest

An anti-government protester runs during clashes with riot police in Kyiv's Independence Square, the epicentre of the current unrest in Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

"We expect these individuals to be able to leave the embassy safely, free from intimidation, arrest or further harassment."

Thousands of police officers broke down barricades on the edge of Kyiv's Independence Square.

But they were repelled by 20,000 protesters armed with rocks, bats and fire bombs.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in Mexico City, where he was meeting with the Mexican president ahead of Wednesday's Three Amigos summit, that he was following the situation in Ukraine and hoped it would improve soon so the protesters can leave the embassy.

In a statement, Baird condemned violence and said he was appalled by reports of deaths in Kyiv.

"Canada calls on all sides to show restraint and to cease all acts of violence immediately," Baird said in the statement. "No act of violence or repression today will go unnoticed by the government of Canada, and we will work with our allies in the international community to ensure that those responsible will be held to account.

“President Viktor Yanukovych has a solemn responsibility to protect the fundamental right to peaceful assembly," he said.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Baird said Canada would provide medical care, including first aid kits, vital supplies and training, for Ukrainian activists through a contribution to a Ukrainian non-governmental organization.

"This urgent medical relief will ensure that treatment is provided to the courageous activists injured while speaking out peacefully in support of democracy,” he said.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar also condemned the violence and called on the Conservative government to do more, including bringing in targeted individual sanctions.

“The prime minister should personally call President Yanukovych to make clear to him that the repression and abuses in Ukraine are repugnant," Dewar said in a statement. "The people of Canada are watching the violence with dismay, and the Ukrainian government must be held to account for its actions.”

The protests began last November after Yanukovych froze ties with the European Union in exchange for a $15-billion bailout from Russia.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press