Resurgent Protesters Clash with Riot Police in Ukraine
Opponents of President Viktor Yanukovich lash out against anti-protest law as 100,000 take to the streets
Anti-government protesters met riot police in the city of Kiev on Sunday in a renewed show of street protest against Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich and despite a law against large public demonstrations passed by the ruling party last week in Parliament.
The Guardian reports:
The situation rapidly turned ugly, as protesters tried to storm the ranks of police, who countered with smoke bombs and teargas.
Tens of thousands of protesters chanted "Kiev, give up!" At one point, a group set fire to an empty police bus blocking the road to the parliament building.
Stun grenades were used and smoke was seen above the crowd. Several protesters sustained injuries to their legs. Activists did not back off and continued to shower fireworks and other objects on riot police.
A group of activists began attacking riot police with sticks, trying to push their way toward the Ukrainian parliament, which was cordoned off by rows of police and buses.
The opposition leader Vitali Klitschko tried to stop the protesters from attacking police.
"Yanukovich and his henchmen want to steal our country," declared Klitschko, famous as a world champion boxer but also the strongest potential challenger for the presidency. "Ukraine is united as never before in its struggle against those in power today, in its determination not to allow a dictatorship."
And Reuters adds:
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 Tyahnibok, dismissed the laws as unconstitutional as he spoke from the tribune on Kiev's main Independence Square.
"So we have a right not to carry them out and we will sabotage them," he said.
Yanukovich 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 Ukraine's former Soviet overlord, Russia.
This brought tens of thousands of people on to the streets and protesters set up a permanent encampment on Independence Square. Though numbers have dwindled since, several hundred people remain camped out there or are occupying buildings such as City Hall.
The court ban on protests published on January 15 and last Thursday's legislation aimed at prohibiting all form of public protests inflamed tensions again.