News / Europe

US, EU Condemn Crackdown on Ukraine Protesters

Ukrainian riot police storm pro-European Union activists on Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec 11, 2013.
Ukrainian riot police storm pro-European Union activists on Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec 11, 2013.
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— “Go to Russia, Go to Russia,” chanted protesters as three buses loaded with Ukrainian riot police slowly retreated from their unsuccessful attack on pro-European protesters occupying Kyiv’s City Hall.

Riot police and protesters played push and pull Wednesday over the heart of Ukraine’s capital.  Under the cover of darkness and helped by Arctic temperatures, riot police broke down barricades and reclaimed about 20 percent of the Maidan, the protesters’ camp.

Protester Oleg recounts how the police failed to take the opposition’s command center and shut down the sound stage: “They tried to break into the building, but they failed because actually the people stay there, and they stop.”

  • Pro-European Union activists shout as they listen to Ukranian opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok, during a rally in the Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • People pass by a barricade erected by pro-European integration protesters in central Kyiv, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • Pro-European Union musicians perform in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • People pick up food inside the Kyiv City Council building which is occupied by pro-European integration protesters, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • Pro-European Union activists warm themselves near a bonfire and guard barricades on the main street Khreschatyk in Kyiv, Dec. 12, 2013.
  • Interior Ministry personnel block a street in central Kyiv, Dec. 12, 2013.
  • Pro-European integration protesters warm themselves by a fire in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 12, 2013.
  • Tents and belongings of pro-European integration protesters are seen near Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Riot police pull pro-European Union activists out from their camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Pro-European integration protesters standing behind barricades confront a line of riot police approaching at Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Pro-European integration protesters line up in front of riot police in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Riot police leave a bus after protesters threw a smoke bomb, outside City Hall in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.

The police generally did not use their clubs, but 30 people were injured.

Within hours, strong reaction came from the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued this statement: "The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv's Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity.”

In Kyiv, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met with President Viktor Yanukovych and then spoke to reporters:

"I made it absolutely clear to him that what happened last night, what has been happening in security terms here, is absolutely impermissible in a European state, in a democratic state."

Clear meaning

For Ukrainians who do not understand English, Nuland’s body language sent a clear message.  One moment she was on national TV standing unsmiling next to Ukraine’s president.  The next moment, she was walking, smiling, through the protest camp, handing out bread and crackers to protesters and riot police.

Nuland and European Union envoy Catherine Ashton have spent a total of six hours in separate meetings with President Yanukovych, pressing him to find a political solution.

At the end of Wednesday, President Yanukovych invited the opposition to join the government in a round table dialogue to seek a peaceful solution.

From jail, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko urged the West to take even tougher steps.

She appealed in a statement: "Stop the authoritarian regime in Ukraine with financial and visa sanctions and international anti-corruption investigations. Otherwise, a cemetery of freedom will be built in Ukraine. Act!"
Increasingly, Ukraine’s president is starting to look isolated.

Two of Ukraine’s major churches, the Greek-Catholic and the Ukrainian Orthodox, condemned the latest police attacks on the protesters' encampment.  As riot police gathered, protesters were summoned from sleep, not only by mobile telephone and social network messages, but by church bells ringing insistently in Kyiv’s pre-dawn darkness.

By daylight, the protest square was once again filled with defiant people, three weeks after the protest started.

A Kiev construction company director, Vladimir, was there, his red motorcycle helmet contrasting with the falling snow.

“We are going to be more and more, and the government should start thinking about that,” he said, between sips of hot tea from a plastic cup.
Further weakening Ukraine’s president, television stations owned by once-loyal oligarchs are giving increasingly evenhanded coverage to the protests.

At the same time, supporters from the president’s heartland, eastern Ukraine, have failed to materialize in the capital.  In contrast, pro-European demonstrators have proved willing to drive halfway across the nation to demonstrate.

As international condemnation mounted Wednesday, an order was given.  Suddenly, the riot police fell back.

As soon as they withdrew, protesters started rebuilding a wooden barricade, one that police had cut with chainsaws only hours earlier.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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Comments
     
by: Anonymous
December 11, 2013 9:21 PM
Comrade, if VOA does not publish your comments we will boycott VOA!!!


by: Babushka from: Ukraine
December 11, 2013 3:39 PM
to all of you guys who care about us in Ukraine... thank you for your support. but as i said to you earlier, VOA does not publish our comments because we criticize Obama silence... still, I will try again, We are not giving up to brutality here. many of you do not understand that Ukraine is essentially split between the East and the West... yes, the East are majority Russian who were brought here through the instigation of Moscow to influence the demographic balance. Just like the Arabs in Israel. you probably know that the term "Palestinians" is a manufactured term... they are some sort of different Arabs... they are really Jordanian Arabs in search of work in Israel... and that is exactly what has been happening here in Ukraine... the East are mainly Russians who come here through Russian Government incentives... the real Ukrainians are concentrated in the West of Ukraine. and we want freedom from the corruption and decay of the brutality of the Putin Regime...

In Response

by: Roman from: Minsk(Belarus)
December 12, 2013 2:04 AM
OMG. Ukrainians who write at foreign sites are vеry specific. They tend to write about how Russians are bad, to whine about big costs on Russian gas for them, big dues at the border with Russia. They wants to join the EU, but they don't have suitable level of economic development for that and how all another from post-Soviet countries don't. You lied about some facts:

-Ukrainians have stated settling in some part of East Ukraine since 16 century. Russian have started doing the same since 18c. And that's not idea of Moscow to change demographic proportion there.

-Crimea and some of next situated territories was annexed from Crimean Khanate by Russia in 1783. It was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev (Ukrainian leader of the USSR). That's the reason of majority of Russians in this part of the Ukraine.

For readers I can say that It's not Russia's fault that the Ukraine doesn't have suitable level of economic development to enter the EU. Yes, Russia have increased dues on goods from the Ukraine to stop this process. But if the Ukraine have high level of goods, why doesn't it sell at another market to avoid depending of Russia.

In Response

by: Guest from: USA
December 11, 2013 8:42 PM
I respectfully disagree. East and West in the Ukraine have their differences, and corruption exists in both parts, but Ukraine is not split. It is a whole state, like Canada. It would be a shame if the EU and US support for the opposition were to result in destabilizing that country or railroading them into an unprofitable economic agreement. Free will of the people should and will be expressed, in due time when the next elections come. Could you imagine barricades in front of the White House because the Congress accepted Obamacare and some folks disagreed? Absolutely not. Anyone within a several miles radius with anything resembling a material for a barricade would be arrested, and would be shot if deemed attacking the police. People in the USA simply wait for the next elections. I believe the current powers-that-be in the Ukraine could order shots to be fired, but instead ordered the police to let it slide as eventually they hope to stay in charge after joining the EU, just on the better economic terms.

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