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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid