Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Five Killed As Ukraine Police Battle Protesters

Five killed as Ukraine police battle protesters

February 19, 2014

KIEV — Anti-government protesters and police engaged in violent street battles that left hundreds injured and at least five demonstrators dead in Ukraine’s capital yesterday.

Fighting escalated in Kiev as a standoff played out inside parliament, where deputies faced off over changes to the constitution that the opposition has said could be a way out of the political paralysis gripping the country.

Thousands of radical demonstrators moving toward the parliament building around midday — many of them wielding shields and sticks, and wearing masks — were confronted by police who deployed rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas. Pictures from the front lines showed rioters ripping up cobblestones to hurl at police.

Lesya Orobets, a deputy with the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, said on her Facebook page that at least three protesters had been killed. Radio Free Europe cited opposition medic Olga Bogomolets as also saying from a first aid centre near parliament that three people had been killed and seven were in a serious condition.

The Interior Ministry confirmed reports of five dead early yesterday evening and said police were investigating the matter.

Police earlier said one person was killed at the headquarters of the ruling Party of Regions, which was stormed by demonstrators.

Officials said that as of early yesterday evening, 37 police officers had been injured in the unrest, five of them wounded by arms used by protesters.

Earlier in the day, opposition deputies in parliament blocked the speaker’s rostrum in protest against pro-government deputies’ refusal to register a bill introducing reform to the constitution.

The bill was eventually registered, the opposition Svoboda party said later Tuesday on Twitter.

Opposition forces are seeking the restoration of the 2004 constitution, which they say would ensure a way out of the political crisis by transferring more powers to parliament from the president.

The Party of Regions has said it is willing to review the law but has refused to automatically return to a previous version.

Large-scale street protests erupted in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in November after President Viktor Yanukovych backed away from deals to deepen political and economic cooperation with the European Union and instead opted for closer ties with Russia.

The protests have sporadically descended into violence on both sides.

Yanukovych has said he is ready to appoint a coalition government that includes members of the opposition, the speaker of parliament said last week.

— RIA Novosti.

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