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Tense night in Kiev as police clear part of protester-occupied territory

Published time: December 10, 2013 23:40
Edited time: December 11, 2013 08:25

Riot policemen stand in front of a barricade held by protesters on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 11, 2013. (AFP Photo/Genya Savilov)

During an overnight raid, Ukrainian police have driven protesters off some of the areas they occupied in central Kiev. The operation was carried out in order to clear the streets from the barricades to let transport pass, according to the law enforcers.

The police have taken down some of the barricades and cleared some roads around Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan). However they stopped at a certain moment, having pushed rally participants closer to the heart of the protest, Maidan’s stage.

RT’s Paul Scott, reporting from the scene, has described the situation as a “slightly tense stand-off” between the rally participants and the law enforcers.

We are not talking about dispersing the protest camp on Maidan [Independence Square], we are only talking about executing the court order on clearing main roads,” UNIAN news agency reports, citing Kiev police.

RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev

Earlier several hundred special forces officers moved towards the protesters’ camp on Independence Square in Kiev after an official read out a court decree which states that demonstrations in the city center are illegal.

The majority of protesters have gathered around the stage on Independence Square, where opposition leaders have been giving speeches and a concert has been going on throughout the night.

The whole scene is rather surreal,” RT’s Irina Galushko reports from Kiev. “Because you still have a concert going on here. In fact the advance of the police began exactly when one of Ukrainian top artists was performing from the stage, so she is kind of emceeing the protest right now.”

The protesters sang the Ukrainian national anthem and prayers were read from the stage. Protesters shouted, "Tomorrow, there will be a million of us."

There have been some minor clashes,” Galushko added. “There has also been report of tear gas being used. I haven’t seen any of that. However, we’ve seen protesters throwing remnants of the plastic Christmas tree, which was here in the [Independence] Square, into a fire, so there’s this horrific scent in the air.

Ukrainian police detained several of the most active protesters out of about 1,000 demonstrators present at Independence Square, RIA Novosti quoted local authorities as saying.

Security forces have cordoned off the square, preventing people from entering.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that she is still in Kiev and is saddened by the use of force against protesters, according to a Facebook statement. EU representatives in Ukraine said they are contacting local authorities to prevent the use of force against demonstrators, a statement posted on the group’s Facebook page said.

Opposition UDAR party leader Vitaly Klitschko spoke from the stage set up on Independence Square. "We are defending our right to live in free country…We say no to a police state," Kyiv Post reported. Klitschko added that the president must resign.

Earlier, Ukrainian opposition members made clear that they expected special forces to break up protests within the next several hours.

Unrest in Ukraine began on November 21 when President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the EU, sparking mass protests.