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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.