Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Vincent Mundy/Bloomberg
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Vincent Mundy/Bloomberg

There are likely to be "dangerous days" immediately ahead in Ukraine as the hardline pro-Russian government resists demands from hundreds of thousands of protesters, said Senator Chris Murphy, who just returned from a weekend visit to Kiev.

Massive pro-European protests continue. Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who visited the country with Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said he worried that government crackdowns could become violent.

At a breakfast in Washington today, Murphy said he wasn't optimistic that President Viktor Yanukovych would make concessions in the short term. The Ukrainian government, under pressure from Russia, has cut a deal with President Vladimir Putin and rejected a European Union integration and trade agreement.

The Russian president, Murphy cautioned, has more leverage because he "plays with a different tool box," which includes threats, illicit activities and the violation of trade and other treaties. "In his backyard, that puts us at a fundamental disadvantage," Murphy said.

The best prospects for change in Ukraine, according to Murphy, may be the elections two years from now, assuming there is a "relatively unified opposition" to the current regime.

(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)