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 British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid