Ukraine’s former Interior Minister turned opposition leader was injured in a scuffle with police as anti-government demonstrators are resorting to aggressive tactics in an effort to rekindle waning protests.
Ex-Minister Yuri Lutsenko was one of 10 people injured when 200 opposition activists blocked a courthouse in the capital Kiev to protest against prison terms to three ultra-nationalists convicted of planning to blow up a stature to Vladimir Lenin two years ago.
Mr. Lutsenko sustained head injuries and was rushed to hospital. He has been one of the leaders of massive “EuroMaidan” protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a free trade pact with the European Union in November in favour of building stronger ties with Russia.
The month-long protests, which initially drew hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, ran out of steam after Russia last month offered crisis-hit Ukraine a $20-billion bailout package of loans and heavy discounts on natural gas supplies.
Opposition leaders have now changed tactics to reignite protests.
“Maidan should not stand put, because if we do not move forward, we get rolled back,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, another protest leader. “That is why we have adopted new tactics of guerrilla forays against police, Yanukovich, [Prime Minister Mykola] Azarov…”
Western media, which hailed the pro-European protests as a replay of the 2005 Orange Revolution, now take the view that the opposition has suffered another defeat.
“Mr. Yanukovich has ridden out the immediate storm without conceding to the opposition’s main demands: to rekindle the E.U. agreement, or sack his government and stand down,” the Financial Times wrote two days ago.
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said he took his hat off to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has outplayed the West in the battle for Ukraine.
“Putin has locked Ukraine in a tight embrace from which it will not be able to free itself without losses,” Mr. Kuchma told a local newspaper. “He has also outplayed the West, forcing it to look at Ukraine through Moscow glasses.”