January 22, 2014
For successive Ukrainian governments, it has long been a standard strategy to prosecute, jail and occasionally poison political opponents. Human rights groups will complain, the European Union will tut, but the chances of getting hit with sanctions are unlikely, and besides, Vladimir Putin in Moscow is always there for backup. As President Viktor Yanukovych may be about to find out, though, there is just one problem with treating one’s rivals this way: it means they aren’t there just when you really need them most. With huge anti-government demonstrations in the capital, Kiev, now escalating into open street warfare, the best option for Mr Yanukovych to restore calm now have been to reach out to the leaders of the mainstream opposition. Cue a transitional government of national unity, and a little breathing space ahead of the next scheduled elections in February 2015.
Unfortunately, the mainstream opposition is itself in disarray, not least because its best-known leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, the blonde-haired face of the 2004 Orange Revolution, is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence on corruption charges. So instead of credible leaders to talk to, Mr Yanukovych has only angry crowds, few of whom so far seem intimidated by last week’s draconian new laws forbidding nearly all forms of legitimate protest. “It is a very volatile situation,” says James Sherr, of the London-based foreign policy think tank, Chatham House. “Unlike the Orange Revolution of 2004, there is an absence of any effective and coherent opposition. The government has no one but a mob to negotiate with, although this is a situation they have created themselves.”
Source = The Telegraph
January 22, 2014
At least three people died in a day of violence in Kiev on Wednesday, as an opposition leader said he was willing to face “a bullet in the forehead” if President Viktor Yanukovych did not launch snap elections. A three-hour meeting between the embattled president and the three main political opposition leaders ended without a deal, leaving the capital braced for intensified violence. Two men died from bullet wounds on Wednesday, according to Ukraine’s general prosecutor, while the third died after falling from a rooftop while fighting with police. Protesters report that dozens of people have been seriously injured during the clashes, which have been running since Sunday evening.
Central Kiev resembled a battlefield last night, with police firing rubber bullets and wielding truncheons, while protesters lobbed molotov cocktails. The two men who were shot were killed with live ammunition, the authorities admitted. Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, now an opposition politician, said Yanukovych had 24 hours in which to call snap elections, and demanded another meeting with the president on Thursday. If this did not happen, he said, the opposition would “go on the attack”. His words were met by loud cheers from the crowd on Independence Square, hub of the protests.
Source = The Guardian
January 22, 2014
Two protesters have been killed in clashes with police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Prosecutors confirmed they had died from bullet wounds. They are the first fatalities since anti-government protests began in November. Wednesday’s clashes began after police moved in to dismantle a protest camp. After talks with President Viktor Yanukovych, one opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko, threatened to lead protesters “on the attack”.
“Today they [the police] are preparing to clear us out of the Maidan (Independence Square),” Mr Klitschko declared. “We must do all we can to stop them clearing us out.” He said the president could end the stand-off by calling early elections but that “tomorrow, if the president does not respond… then we will go on the attack”, to roars of approval from the crowd.
Source = BBC News
January 22, 2014
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Anti-government protests in Ukraine’s capital escalated into fiery street battles with police Sunday as thousands of demonstrators hurled rocks and firebombs to set police vehicles ablaze. Dozens of officers and protesters were injured. Police responded with stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons, but were outnumbered by the protesters. Many of the riot police held their shields over their heads to protect themselves from the projectiles thrown by demonstrators on the other side of a cordon of buses. The violence was a sharp escalation of Ukraine’s two-month political crisis, which has brought round-the-clock protest gatherings, but had been largely peaceful. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko tried to persuade demonstrators to stop their unrest, but failed and was sprayed by a fire extinguisher in the process. Klitschko later traveled to President Viktor Yanukovych’s suburban residence and said the president has agreed to negotiate.
“There are only two ways for events to develop. The first one is not to negotiate,” Klitschko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “A scenario of force can be unpredictable and I don’t rule out the possibility of a civil war. … And here we are using all possibilities in order to prevent bloodshed.” Yanukovych said later on his Web site that he has tasked a working group, headed by national security council head Andriy Klyuev, to meet with opposition representatives to work out a solution to the crisis. However, it was unclear if either side was prepared for real compromise; throughout the crisis, the opposition has insisted on the government’s resignation and calling early presidential elections.
Source = The World Post
January 22, 2014
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Two people were shot to death early Wednesday in anti-government protests in Ukraine, the first fatalities in the increasingly heated clashes with police in the streets of the Ukrainian capital, raising concerns that the movement is spiraling into a more dangerous phase of violence. Medics at the site said a third man died after he fell from a high point near a sports arena at the site of clashes, but Natalia Vishnevska, spokeswoman for the city health department, said that man survived the fall and was being treated in the hospital.
The protesters’ deaths fueled fears that daily protests aimed at bringing down the government over its decision to shun the European Union for closer ties to Moscow and over human rights violations could turn even more violent. Prosecutors said the two men were shot with live ammunition, and have opened a criminal investigation to determine who was responsible. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the police did not have live ammunition and charged that opposition leaders should be held responsible for the deaths. One of the victims has been identified by opposition leaders and doctors treating protesters as Sergei Nigoyan, a 20-year-old ethnic Armenian who came from the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk in early December to join the protests on Kiev’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan.
A video shows Nigoyan reciting poetry by the famed Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, standing in the protest camp and clenching his fist in a sign of victory, as a Ukrainian yellow-and-blue flag flaps in the wind.Respected Ukrainian journalist Kristina Berdinskikh, who has been profiling protesters for several weeks, interviewed Nigoyan in early January. “I saw on TV what is happening on the Maidan, I didn’t sleep at night, I was following the news,” Nagoyan told Berdinshkikh, according to a transcript she posted online. “Then I decided to come. This is also my future.”
Source = Yahoo News
January 22, 2014
Supporters of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich have hustled a sweeping law through parliament in an attempt to curb anti-government protests, sparking an outcry from the opposition and raising tensions on the streets. The law, backed by deputies from Yanukovich’s Regions Party and allies, also adopted a similar stance to Russia on registration of foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs), insisting they should pay taxes on profit. NGOs that were financed from abroad and took part in political activity in Ukraine would be categorised as “foreign agents”, it said. But the law, which ran to more than 100 pages, appeared directed mainly at preparing the ground for action to end the street protests that have been taking place in the capital Kiev and some other cities since November.
Yanukovich’s refusal at that time to sign a free trade deal with the European Union in favour of boosting ties with Ukraine’s former Soviet master Russia brought hundreds of thousands on to the streets in protest. Though numbers have dwindled since, several hundred people remain camped out on Kiev’s central square of Kiev or are occupying public buildings such as City Hall. On Sunday, at least 50,000 people demonstrated against Yanukovich in Kiev. The law, which still needs Yanukovich’s signature, bans any unauthorised installation of tents, stages or amplifiers in public places, on pain of a fine of up to £390 or up to 15 days in detention.
People and organisations who provide facilities or equipment for such meetings will be liable to a fine of up £780 or detention of up to 10 days. Opposition politicians regularly use a stage on the square to broadcast messages of support to the protesters, and the law will clearly make such action illegal. Other tough but vaguely-worded threats envisage jail sentences ranging from two to 15 years for offences involving stopping people entering buildings or “mass violation” of public order. Protest ‘motorcades’ involving more than five vehicles, like those staged outside government residences including that of Yanukovich in recent weeks, were also banned. The decision in parliament, taken by a sudden show of hands that caught the opposition off-guard, followed a court ban on protests in Kiev, boosting opposition fears of an imminent police crackdown.
Source = The Independent