News / Europe

Clashes Erupt at Kyiv Rally

Protesters clash with police in central Kyiv, Ukraine, early Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
Protesters clash with police in central Kyiv, Ukraine, early Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
RFE/RL
A tense standoff between anti-government demonstrators and riot police continued overnight in Kyiv following clashes in the Ukrainian capital.

The violence on January 19 came after tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Independence Square in defiance of new anti-protest legislation.

Protesters attacked police with sticks as they tried to push their way towards the parliament building, which had been cordoned off by rows of police and buses.

Stun grenades were used and smoke was seen above the crowd.

One police bus was destroyed and set alight. The flames of the burning bus could be seen from far away.

As clashes continued reports emerged that boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko had met with President Viktor Yanukovych at his presidential residence outside Kyiv.

Klitschko later tweeted that Yanukovych had agreed to set up a committee to settle the political crisis.

On his website, Yanukovych said that he had tasked a working group -- headed by national security head Andriy Klyuev -- to meet with opposition representatives on January 20 to work out a solution to the crisis.

The White House urged an end to the violence, with National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying that Washington was deeply concerned and urging "all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation."

Hayden said Ukraine's government "has moved to weaken the foundations of Ukraine's democracy by criminalizing peaceful protest and stripping civil society and political opponents of key democratic protections under the law."

She called on Ukraine to repeal recent laws limiting protests, remove riot police from downtown Kyiv and start talking to the opposition.

"The U.S. will continue to consider additional steps -- including sanctions -- in response to the use of violence," Hayden said in a statement.

The new legislation -- signed into law by Yanukovych on January 16 -- bans any unauthorized installation of tents, stages, or amplifiers. It also prohibits protesters from covering their faces or from wearing construction hats.

Many demonstrators wore medical, ski, and carnival masks in defiance of the new regulations and others had kitchen pots and colanders on their heads. Many others wore construction hats.

The legislation allows for prison terms of up to 15 years for the "mass violation" of public order.

The new laws also require nongovernmental organizations to register as "foreign agents" if they are funded from abroad, mirroring a similar rule on the books in Russia.

The new legislation was passed by a show of hands in the parliament after the opposition blocked access to the podium and the electronic voting system.

Opposition lawmakers said the way the laws were passed was unconstitutional and declared the legislation null and void.

Also on January 16, opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared the start of opposition-sponsored referendums and elections for new government bodies and officials in Ukraine.

"We are starting popular voting on the lack of confidence [in the government] and over the dismissal of [Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovych," he said.

Yatsenyuk added that ballots would be held on a "declaration of support for and confirmation of the authority of the Ukrainian People's Council" as well as on "the creation of a new constitution for Ukraine."

He also said a popular vote would be held to elect an alternative Kyiv City Council and mayor of Kyiv.

Tension Mounting

Tensions remain high in Ukraine since Yanukovych's abrupt decision late in November not to sign a deal with the EU, sparking some of the biggest protests in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Yanukovych allegedly changed course after pressure from the Kremlin, which has since offered financial aid and cheaper gas to cash-strapped Ukraine.

Analysts say the protests do not appear to have shaken Yanukovych's hold on power. However, Yanukovych's decision late on January 17 to fire his chief of staff, analysts said, indicates that tensions are simmering within the Ukrainian leader's inner circle.

The president's office gave no reason for the dismissal of Serhiy Lyovochkin.

Lyovochkin was reported to have considered stepping step down in November after riot police brutally dispersed student protesters.

The AFP news agency quotes an unnamed Ukrainian official as saying Yanukovych's spokeswoman, Darka Chepak, is also considering stepping down.

"Turmoil in regime in Kyiv. Reports of resignations, dismissals and general uncertainty," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

The United States and European Union have called the new legislation passed on January 16 antidemocratic. Ukraine's opposition accuses Yanukovych of trying to install a "dictatorship."

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs