News Brief — Jan 20, 2014
Ukrainian security forces clashed with protestors in the center of Kiev on Sunday night leaving dozens injured. The clashes followed the imposition of new restrictions on protests ordered by President Viktor Yanukovych.
Protesters hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at the ranks of the security forces and torched several police vehicles and buses. In response police fired tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon, AFP reports.
The clashes further raised the stakes in the almost two-month standoff between the opposition and President Yanukovych, during which time protesters have seized control of the main city square in Kiev and municipal buildings on several occasions.
Sunday’s protests began peacefully enough with mass rally in central Kiev in the afternoon. However, it turned violent after hundreds of demonstrators tried to storm police cordons around the Verkhovna Rada parliament and close to the stadium of the legendary Dynamo Kiev football club, witnesses said.
In the most violent scenes since the start of the protests in November, demonstrators seized five police buses and two trucks and set them ablaze.
With their faces covered by scarves or ski masks, many of the protesters wielded sticks or chains. They were confronted by helmeted riot police equipped with shields who at times adopted a “tortoise” formation once used by Roman legions to protect themselves from rocks and stones.
The standoff was still continuing in the early hours of Monday after nearly 12 hours of unrest in Kiev.
Officials said dozens had been injured in the clashes of whom three had been taken to hospital, while police said more than 70 officers had been hurt.
Meanwhile Party of the Regions deputy Vadym Kolesnichenko accused Western intelligence agencies of having trained and financed militants involved in the clashes.
“Those we can see are not peaceful protesters. They are well trained and equipped gangs, who aim to transform this conflict into a civil confrontation and try to make the authorities use force,” Kolesnichenko said.
Before Sunday’s rally opposition leaders, including former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, had called for peaceful protests.
However, once violence erupted protesters appeared to act in well-organised organised and coordinated manner. Ukrainian media has linked the most recent protests to a little-known right-wing youth group called “Right Sector”.