News / Europe

    Protesters, Police Clash in Ukrainian Capital

    Protesters clash with police in central Kyiv, early Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
    Protesters clash with police in central Kyiv, early Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
    Reuters
    Protesters clashed with riot police in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday after tough anti-protest legislation, which the political opposition says paves the way for a police state, was rushed through parliament last week.

    A group of young masked demonstrators attacked a cordon of police with sticks and tried to overturn a bus blocking their way to the parliament building after opposition politicians called on people to disregard the new legislation.

    Despite appeals from opposition leaders not to resort to violence, and a personal intervention from boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, protesters continued to throw smoke bombs and hurl fireworks and other objects at police.

    The police appeared to show restraint during that fracas.

    The interior ministry said 30 police were hurt, including more than 10 admitted to hospitals and four in serious condition.

    A spokeswoman for Klitschko tweeted that President Viktor Yanukovych had agreed to meet Klitschko immediately at the presidential residence outside Kyiv, although there was no confirmation from Yanukovych's side.

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

    • Protesters gather near a bus that was burned during demonstrations organized by pro-European integration supporters in Kyiv, Jan. 21, 2014.
    • A woman walks from police officers as they block a street during unrest in central Kyiv, Jan. 21, 2014.
    • Riot police block a street, as stones used by pro-European integration protesters in recent demonstrations lie on the ground in Kyiv, Jan. 21, 2014.
    • Riot police officers clash with anti-government protesters in central Kyiv, Jan. 21, 2014.
    • A pro-European protester takes a photo during clashes with Ukrainian riot police in Kyiv, Jan. 20, 2014.
    • Protesters shield themselves as they clash with police in central Kyiv, Jan. 20, 2014.
    • Protesters confront police in central Kyiv, Jan. 20, 2014.
    • Protesters clash with police in central Kyiv, Jan. 20, 2014.
    • Protesters clash with Ukrainian riot police during a pro-European integration rally in Kyiv, Jan. 19, 2014.
    • A protester throws a stone towards a burning police bus during clashes with police in central Kyiv, Jan. 19, 2014.

    As tensions continued into the night, police used water cannons against demonstrators gathered near the parliament building and the heavily protected government headquarters, eyewitnesses said.

    Earlier, some distance away from the clashes, up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed on Kyiv's Independence Square in defiance of the sweeping new laws, which ban rallies and which Washington and other Western capitals have denounced as undemocratic.

    The rally, the biggest of the new year, was the latest in a cycle of public protests in the former Soviet republic since Yanukovych made a policy U-turn in November away from the European Union towards Russia, Ukraine's former Soviet overlord.

    Several big protests in December attracted hundreds of thousands of people, while thousands maintained a vigil in a Kyiv square demanding Yanukovych resign. Since the new year demonstrations have become smaller, but hundreds of people are still camping in the square and 50,000 turned out a week ago.

    Court ban

    The court ban on protests published on January 15, and last Thursday's legislation aimed at prohibiting many forms of public protests, have inflamed tensions again.

    The laws ban any unauthorized installation of tents, stages or use of loud-speakers in public.

    Heavy jail sentences were imposed for participation in “mass disorder” and the wearing of face-masks or protective helmets. Dissemination of “extremist” or libelous information about the country's leaders was outlawed.

    In a gesture of scorn for the helmet ban, many protesters on Sunday wore saucepans and colanders on their heads.

    The crisis has highlighted a divide in the country of 46 million people between those, particularly in Russian-speaking eastern areas, who identify more closely with a shared past with Russia and those, especially in the Ukrainian-speaking parts of  western and central Ukraine, who look westwards.

    Opposition leaders announced an action plan to gather people's signatures expressing no confidence in the leadership of Yanukovych and parliament.

    Denouncing as unconstitutional last Thursday's hurried vote in parliament by Yanukovych loyalists, they called for moves to set up a parallel structure of power - including a people's assembly and a new constitution.

    ”Yanukovych and his henchmen want to steal our country. Ukraine is united as never before in its struggle against those in power today, in its determination not to allow a dictatorship,” Klitschko, the strongest potential challenger for the presidency, told the crowds on Independence Square.

    Calls for restraint

    Opposition leaders were at pains to urge protesters not to resort to action which would provide a pretext for a crackdown.

    When clashes broke out about 500 meters (yards) from Independence square, Klitschko went to the scene and sought to persuade protesters to refrain from attacking police.

    ”Stop your actions,” he called through loud-hailer to groups of young people - some of them masked. ”We are a peaceful protest.”

    Protesters sprayed a powder fire extinguisher at police, catching Klitschko whose face was covered in white.

    As police later appeared to be readying to take a tougher line against protesters, he tweeted: Viktor Yanukovych, do not go down the same road as [late Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu and [late Libyan leader Muammar] Gadhafi. Stop waging war on the citizens of Ukraine!”
    Arseny Yatsenyuk, another opposition leader, told the crowds on Independence Square: “Our victory is not in using physical violence but in moral and spiritual strength.”

    Though setting up an alternative power structure may not be realistic, Sunday's turn-out suggested it could also be difficult for the authorities to try to solve the crisis by use of force despite the court ban and the new laws.

    Another opposition leader, far-right-nationalist Oleh Tyahnybok, dismissed the laws as unconstitutional as he spoke from the tribune on Kyiv's main Independence Square.

    ”So we have a right not to carry them out and we will sabotage them,” he said.

    Yanukovych triggered the pro-Europe rallies when he did an about-turn last November and ditched a free trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia.

    Russia has since thrown Ukraine a $15 billion lifeline in credits as well as a softer deal for purchases of strategic supplies of natural gas.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: archlingua from: Guatemala City, Guatemala
    January 19, 2014 11:32 AM
    Of course Ukrainians protest at being trampled into little evil Putin’s dominion, instead of keeping their freedom to develop a liberated, Western-class democracy. Let them be assured that he free peoples of the world await them.
    In Response

    by: Pavel from: Ukraine
    January 19, 2014 7:18 PM
    Thank you! Words of support are very important to us. Let democracy overcome in Ukraine! Long live Ukraine! Long live the democratic world!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora