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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid