Bloody clashes flare again in Ukraine capital

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, in Ukraine, on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Sergei Chuzavkov

Bloody clashes flared again in Kiev on Thursday between armed radicals and police hours after the warring sides negotiated a truce.

Rioters attacked police with rocks and Molotov cocktails on Thursday pushing them back several hundred metres to positions the protesters held before security forces went into offensive a day earlier.

Ukraine's acting Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharschenko said he had given orders to arm police with “combat weapons” to protect citizens and property from attacks and for self-defence.

The death toll, which stood at 28 dead on Wednesday, more than doubled on Thursday. Ukraine’s Health Ministry said 64 people had died in the capital and hundreds had been wounded.

The clashes erupted shortly after Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych at an overnight meeting with opposition leaders agreed to their demand to declare a ceasefire ahead of the arrival of a high-powered delegation of the European Union in Kiev.

However, the Right Sector, an umbrella organisation for extreme nationalist groups who have been battling the police, rejected the agreement.

“Somebody up there would wish to stop people’s uprising by declaring a false truce,” the group’s leader Dmitro Yarosh wrote on Facebook. “The Right Sector has not signed any agreement with anyone; therefore the offensive by the people in revolt must go on.”

Police said 10 officers had died from gunshot wounds in two days of fighting. More than a hundred security personnel were wounded and 67 taken prisoner by radicals. Protesters in turn accused security forces of using live ammunition.

Anti-government protesters have taken control practically of all Western regions of Ukraine, storming government offices and forcing Kiev-appointed governors to sign resignation letters. Radicals seized a military base in Ivano-Frankovsk in the West and set its weapons arsenal on fire.

Mr. Yanukovych’s press service said the protesters had used the truce to regroup and bring more weapons to Kiev.

Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Poland, who arrived in Kiev on Thursday, conferred with Ukraine’s opposition leaders before meeting Mr. Yanukovych. Some reports said the Ministers were pressing Mr. Yanukovych to agree to early elections.

Meanwhile, Russia voiced frustration with Mr. Yanukovych’s indecisiveness in curbing the violence.

Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukrainian authorities must “get their act together and protect people and law enforcement structures”, before Moscow resumes financial aid Ukraine.

“We need partners who are in good shape, legitimate and effective, so that people don't wipe their feet on the authorities like a doormat,” Mr. Medvedev said at a Cabinet meeting in Moscow on Thursday.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sent Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to Kiev to help mediate in the Ukrainian crisis. Earlier Mr. Putin discussed the crisis on telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Kremlin said the leaders agreed on the need to take urgent measures to stabilise the situation in Ukraine. Mr. Putin was quoted as telling Ms. Merkel that the West should stop blaming the Ukrainian leadership only and condemn the opposition.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 4:18:48 AM |

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