Russia sounds warning on Ukraine

January 22, 2014 - 4:27:34 am

KIEV: Russia yesterday warned the situation in Ukraine was spiralling out of control after a second night of violent clashes between pro-EU protesters and security forces in the centre 

of Kiev.

The clashes raged in the centre of the Ukrainian capital until early morning yesterday, with demonstrators flinging Molotov cocktails and stones at security forces who hit back with stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas.

The situation was tense yesterday morning, with thousands of protesters still facing down a line of armour-clad security forces blocking access to the Verkhovna Rada parliament.

A deafening din echoed through the devastated Grushevsky Street as protesters banged sticks on metal canisters. But clashes had paused with some demonstrators even walking up to the police line. The standoff, which has left hundreds wounded, has brought tensions between protesters and the authorities to a new high after two months of rallies over the government’s abandoning of a pact for closer ties with the EU.

A new set of laws, which ban nearly all forms of protest in the ex-Soviet country and have enraged demonstrators, were officially published in the newspaper of the Ukranian parliament after a warning from President Viktor Yanukovich that the violence threatened the entire country.

They allow for jail terms of up to five years for those who blockade public buildings and the arrest of protesters wearing masks or helmets.

Other provisions ban the dissemination of “slander” on the Internet.

Clashes on Sunday and Monday, which followed two months of protests, turned an area in the centre of the capital Kiev into a veritable war zone as some 10,000 demonstrators battled security forces.

Fireworks and stun grenades lit up the night sky while the deafening drumming of protesters with sticks on metal echoed through the streets.

Demonstrators rigged up a giant catapult behind a barricade of burned out police buses in order to better hurl projectiles at the security forces.

The violence in a country where the pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004 peacefully overturned a rigged presidential poll and forced a new ballot is unprecedented.

Russia, which has regarded the pro-EU protests in Ukraine with great suspicion, warned yesterday that clashes between the opposition and police in Ukraine were getting out of control.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the fact that calls by Ukraine’s pro-EU opposition leaders to refrain from violence failed to calm tensions in the capital meant that the situation was becoming explosive.

“They show that the situation is getting out of control,” said Russia’s top diplomat.

Lavrov described the violent protests as “scary” and an “absolute violation of all European norms of behaviour”.

He slammed the EU’s “indecent” support of the protest movement against Yanukovich.

Yesterday, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay called the situation in Ukraine “very worrying” and said the government should suspend 

the laws.

“I call on the authorities to suspend application of the laws to allow time for a thorough review of their content which must be in full compliance with international human rights standards, in particular Ukraine’s obligations under the treaties it has ratified,” she said in a statement.

At least 35 journalists were hurt in the clashes and some received injuries to their faces and eyes from rubber bullets, according to the latest estimates.

In a televised address to the nation, Yanukovich warned on Monday that the violence threatened the foundations of the entire country, which is divided between the pro-European west and the pro-Russian east. “I am convinced that such phenomena are a threat not only to the public in Kiev but all of Ukraine,” he said, indicating his patience was wearing thin. AFP