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Mass protests in Kiev: LIVE UPDATES

Published time: December 07, 2013 05:35
Edited time: February 19, 2014 19:51
An activist stands atop a barricade flanked by the European Union and Ukrainian flags during an opposition rally on Independence Square in central Kiev on December 17, 2013 (AFP Photo / Genia Savilov)

An activist stands atop a barricade flanked by the European Union and Ukrainian flags during an opposition rally on Independence Square in central Kiev on December 17, 2013 (AFP Photo / Genia Savilov)

Thousands of protesters have been on the streets and squares of central Kiev for about three weeks, in rallies marred by violence. Kiev opted to sign a $15 billion deal with Moscow despite protester demands in the capital that Ukraine look westward.

Go to Part 1 of live updates.

Thursday, December 19

15:12 GMT: Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passes a bill awarding amnesty for all the pro-EU protesters detained on Kiev’s Maidan since the beginning of the unrest.

11:50 GMT: Next year, Ukraine will pay its citizens $750 million in compensation for their devalued deposits in the Soviet-era Sberbank, Yanukovich vows, adding that this sum is provided for in the 2014 budget.

He adds that he personally insisted on the move, while members of the government of the former soviet state had their doubts about whether the expense was appropriate.

In total, the Soviet-era Sberbank owes Ukrainians over $12.5 billion.

11:44 GMT: President Yanukovich says his decision to run for a second term in 2015 will depend on his rating.

If my rating is low and there is no prospect [to win the vote], I won’t get in the way of the country’s development,” he tells reporters.

Viktor Yanukovich (AFP Photo / Pool / Sergei Karpukhin)

11:25 GMT: Yanukovich slams opposition leaders for harboring their own political ambitions and conducting "revolutionary" actions.

Personal ambitions have to be kept in check. I am categorically against politicians who have initiated revolutionary actions,” Reuters reports him telling a news conference in Kiev. “We have a constitution and law. Wait for the elections and the Ukrainian people will have the last word.

11:18 GMT: President Viktor Yanukovich criticizes Western politicians who visited a protest encampment in Kiev during the unrest.

He says he is opposed to the interference of representatives of other states in Ukraine’s internal questions and them feeling “they are masters here,” he tells journalists during a televised conference.

I’m categorically against anybody coming here and teaching us how to live,” he says.

11:15 GMT: Ukraine will accept a $15 billion aid package from Russia because of high gas prices and debt repayments to the IMF, Yanukovich says. That, however, does not contradict Ukraine’s policy of European integration, he adds.

Wednesday, December 18

22:19 GMT: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says that the new Russian-Ukrainian deal will not hinder EU’s resolve to sign an Association Agreement with Kiev.

"The EU remains open to signing an Association Agreement with Ukraine. We do not believe that the agreement between Ukraine and Russia will create obstacles for this,” Ashton was quoted by Interfax.

14:07 GMT: Ukrainian pro-EU rally has the nationalist Svoboda party as its major driving force and the loudest voice. RT’s Aleksey Yaroshevsky has taken a closer look at the party’s slogans to find out they are quite contrary to European values. While western leaders used to harshly criticize Ukrainian right-wing factions some time ago, they now seem to see nothing wrong in walking side by side with those adhering to quite radical views.

Video: /files/news/21/6a/90/00/1150753_yaro_1200_480p.mp4

12:25 GMT: Former Ukrainian foreign minister Vladimir Ogryzko says the recent economic aid deal signed between Kiev and Moscow will deprive Ukraine of its autonomy in managing its own foreign affairs and do nothing to keep the country from sinking further into debt.

"Today the Ukrainian government has lost the right to foreign policy maneuvering," he said.

Ogryzko added that after inking a deal for cheaper Russian gas, which will also see Russia purchase $15 billion dollars in securities from the debt-ridden country, Kiev will now be forced to coordinate matters of foreign policy with Moscow. He concluded that Ukraine had sold out its sovereignty to solve the country’s gas problem.

12:15 GMT: Ukraine’s ex-finance minister Viktor Pinzenik from the opposition UDAR party said the economic deal would not “solve the problems of Ukraine.”

“Instead finding a way out of the problems from living a life in debt, Ukraine has further been pulled into debt,” Pinzenik said.

Pinzenik said the interest rate on the loan remained unknown, and at any time Russia could opt “to give or not give” the funds, making the credit a means of exerting pressure on Ukraine.

10:55 GMT: Ukraine’s Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov said that signing an agreement with the EU would have “given the country a New Year’s present” amounting to a crisis and a social collapse. To draw a parallel, the PM compared the prospect with a deal with Russia.

“Let’s examine how the possible course of events, had we not reachedthat agreement [with Russia on December 17], if approximately a month ago we had not taken the tough but necessary decision of halting the signing of an agreement [with the EU]… after several days of applause and jubilation over the signing, Ukraine would have to face a tough reality,” Azarov said at a meeting on Wednesday.

8:40 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed Russia’s “surprise” that Western powers have continued to push Ukraine to have closer ties with Europe despite the fact that Kiev has accepted a financial package from Moscow

Russia is "surprised by attempts to put overt pressure on the Ukrainian government, which continue despite the decisions made in Moscow yesterday," Lavrov told the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (AFP Photo)

Lavrov said Western attempts to influence Kiev were inherently contradictory, as they denied Ukraine the right to act in accordance with its own laws and national interests as a sovereign state.

“Our position is based on respect for the sovereign respect of Ukraine,” Lavrov continued. “We hope that Ukraine will be able to overcome its problems with have accumulated – to do so within a constitutional and legal spheres – and to make its own decisions.”

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich reached a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that will see the Russian government buy $15 billion in Ukrainian debt by investing in Ukrainian securities using money from Russia's Welfare Fund. Also, from January 1, Ukraine will be able to purchase Russian gas for $268 instead of $400 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Tuesday, December 17

19:48 GMT: US Senator John McCain told The Daily Beast that Washington “did not threaten” Kiev with sanctions, but would consider sanctions in case the Ukrainian government attempts further violence against peaceful protesters.

“We didn’t threaten the sanctions, but we both said that sanctions would be a consideration if there was any brutality against the protesters,” McCain said following his two day trip to Ukraine.

While not specifying what these sanctions could mean, McCain said Kiev “should not have any doubt that there would be consequences for any further violence”.

19:30 GMT: Washington responded to the Kiev-Moscow deal by saying it “will not address the concerns of tens of thousands of Ukrainian protesters,” Reuters reported, citing White House spokesman Jay Carney.

A pro-European integration protester stands on a barricade during a rally at Independence Square in Kiev December 17, 2013 (Reuters / Marko Djurica)

While saying White House officials had not seen details of the deal, in which Russia agreed to send a $15 billion lifeline to Ukraine, Carney claimed any such deal will not content the demonstrators protesting against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s U-turn on the EU association agreement.

18:40 GMT: The Ukrainian opposition demanded the government lower tariffs on communal services by 30 percent after getting a “discount” on gas from Russia.

Addressing President Yanukovich from a stage on Maidan, Arseny Yatsenyuk of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party called on the government “to lower all the tariffs in Ukraine in connection with the lowering of gas prices” and was supported by cheers from a crowd of demonstrators, Interfax-Ukraine reports.

18:00 GMT: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, under which Russia is to buy $15 billion in Ukrainian debt by buying Ukrainian government securities.

According to Putin, Russia will invest roughly 17 percent of its $88 billion National Welfare Fund for the plan.

Yanukovich announced he also secured a more favorable Russian gas contract, with Ukraine now having to pay $268 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas instead of $400.

There was “not a word” about the Russia-led Customs Union during the Moscow talks, Yanukovich later stressed.

12:40 GMT: The Ukrainian parliament has attempted to start functioning again, but its session lasted less than 10 minutes on Tuesday.

Protesters fly a Ukrainian flag above Independence Square in central Kiev as people gather for an opposition rally on December 17, 2013 (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)

That was due to the fact that the opposition blocked the parliament’s tribune before the session began, and that’s happened for the second time this month.

MPs are set to consider the country’s 2014 budget on Thursday.

“The majority of the deputies are ready to work, not to block the parliament’s work,” Speaker Vladimir Rybak said, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

11:31 GMT: Protesters on Independence Square in Kiev are waiting for the results of President Yanukovich’s trip to Moscow. The Ukrainian leader arrived in the Russian capital on Tuesday and is currently meeting with President Putin to discuss economic cooperation and sign some documents.

Monday, December 16

13:11 GMT: Kiev should make up its mind about euro integration in order to re-start negotiations with the EU, according to Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorsky. He also said that the decision to stop the talks is sensible at the moment, as Ukraine should establish the format of its euro integration for the country.

11:00 GMT: The session of the Russia-Ukrainian interstate commission is set to take place on December 17 in Moscow, and will be presided by Presidents Putin and Yanukovich. Russia and Ukraine are set to sign a significant quantity of documents, according to Kremlin’s statement.

09:33 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is set to discuss the preparation for the January Russia-EU summit, as well as the situation in Ukraine, with the foreign ministers of the European Union (EU). Lavrov will also have a separate meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.

Vytautas Leskevicius, Deputy Foreign Minister of Lithuania, which is currently the chairman of the EU Council, emphasized that Russia’s foreign minister would be told about the "inadmissibility of putting pressure to bear on Ukraine."

Demonstrators shout slogans during a rally held by Pro-European integration protestors in the early morning hours in central Kiev, December 17, 2013. (Reuters)

Earlier, Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s Permanent Representative at the EU, had spoken about the accusations of Russia “pressuring” Ukraine in an ITAR-TASS news agency interview. In his turn, he said that it’s the EU which is putting pressure on Ukraine and compared the EU actions akin "to steamrolling."

03:50 GMT: Ukraine is planning to agree to Russian gas prices and resume talks about a three-party gas consortium to look after Ukraine’s pipeline network next week, Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov told Ukraine’s Inter TV channel.

An intergovernmental Russian-Ukrainian commission is scheduled to take place in Moscow on Tuesday. Yanukovich is said to be in attendance.

00:04 GMT: Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Nikolay Azarov, stated that no documents will be signed in relation to the country joining the Customs Union during the interstate commission meeting on December 17 in Moscow. He clarified that before anything is signed, it must be approved by the cabinet and “right now there are no documents that directly or indirectly have any relation to the Customs Union,” Azarov told Inter TV channel.

Participants in a rally in support of Ukraine's integration with the EU, on Kiev's Independence Square. (RIA Novosti/Iliya Pitalev)

Sunday, December 15

23:06 GMT: US Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. The president “emphasized the invariability of the European integration course of Ukraine and the faithfulness to national interests of the state,” according to the leader’s website.

Yanukovich assured that the government will do everything in its power to make certain that citizens’ rights for peaceful demonstrations are protected, and confirmed that there will be an investigation into the events of November 30 on Independence Square - the day security forces launched a crackdown on protesters. The two sides have agreed to continue negotiations.

19:55 GMT: Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov is hoping for a breakthrough in re-negotiations of the price of Russian gas during an economic forum with his Russian counterparts on Tuesday.
“It’s high time this was sorted out,” he said during a TV appearance on the local Inter channel “We are hoping to come to a final arrangement when we meet up.”
Cash-strapped Ukraine has been locked into a high-priced contract with Russia, which sees it pay substantially more than the European average. Azarov said he hoped to bring supply prices in line with the rest of the continent.

17:10 GMT: Opposition activists have ended their protest outside Ukraine’s Security, Internal Affairs and Central Election Committee offices. The crowd has moved to Independence Square, where opposition supporters have been camping out during three weeks of protests. No violence has been reported.

People shout slogans and wave Ukrainian and European Union flags as a woman holds a picture of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during a mass rally on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 15, 2013. (AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev)

15:13 GMT: Opposition MPs in the Ukrainian Parliament have collected more than 170 signatures for the dismissal of the government of Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov, parliamentarian Oles Doniy told reporters.

“When I put my signature, it was the 175th,” Doniy said.

Taking into account the votes of the Communist party, the resolution already has the support of around 210 deputies - much more than the 150 votes required for the bill to be considered.

On December 3, parliament participated in a no-confidence vote for the current government, but the motion was defeated and the government stayed in place – much to the disappointment of opposition leaders.

The opposition is urging parliament to once again consider the dismissal of the government on December 17, the 66th birthday of Prime Minister Azarov.

15:17 GMT: Three columns of demonstrations have moved out from Independence Square to hold protests in front of the Ukrainian government buildings in Kiev.

The opposition leaders sent their men to the Ukrainian Security Service headquarters and the Interior Ministry, claiming that those agencies were responsible for the violent crackdown on the Maidan rally on November 30.

The third group is heading towards the Central Election Committee due to early parliament elections taking place in five of the country’s districts on Sunday.

13:00 GMT:

12:50 GMT: US Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) have addressed the anti-government rally in Kiev.

As McCain took to the stage, he told demonstrators that their peaceful protests are "inspiring the world."

"People of Ukraine, this is your moment. This is about you, no one else. This is about the future you want for your country. This is about the future you deserve," he said. "We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe."

“The US is with you,” he vowed to the crowd.

McCain was accompanied on stage by Sen. Christopher Murphy.

“Ukraine's future stands with Europe, and the United States stands with Ukraine," Murphy said, urging protesters to continue their fight.

12:45 GMT:

Video: /files/news/21/6a/90/00/1141938_ukr_mcc_web_480p.mp4

12:39 GMT: US Senator John McCain has met with opposition leaders. He said that Ukraine’s future is with Europe and voiced his support for pro-EU protesters.

12:30 GMT:

12:21 GMT: Over 35,000 pro and anti-EU supporters have gathered for mass protests in Kiev, says Kiev police press service. 20,000 people are now on Independence Square, while 15,000 activists have gathered in Mariinsky Park.

12:10 GMT: One protester died during the pro-EU demonstration on Independence square. A police official said the body didn’t bear any signs of violence. The possible cause of death might have been a heart attack, the official added.

11:35 GMT: Ukraine should maintain friendly relations with Russia, says Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of the Udar (Strike) Party, Der Spiegel reports, as cited by Itar-Tass.

“Every country needs normal relations with its neighbors. And Russia is one of our most important trade partners. However, Ukraine shouldn’t forget about its own interests,” he said.

When asked about the possible division of Ukraine into conservative east and pro-European west, he said that “the reasons for both pro and anti-integration protests are the same - unemployment, poor medical service and injustice”. Klitschko has also reiterated his intention to run in the 2015 presidential elections.

11:15 GMT: 18,000 people have gathered on Independence Square to support EU integration, while 15,000 activists came to support the ruling Party of Regions in Mariinsky Park, as of 1pm local time, according to police estimations.

Ukrainian opposition supporters gather at a mass rally on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 15, 2013. (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)

10:48 GMT: Several thousand activists supporting the ruling Party of Regions have gathered in Mariinsky Park for a rally to support Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, Interfax-Ukraine reports.

There are several buses with police nearby. It was earlier announced that the demonstration will take place on European Square, but then the location was changed to Mariinsky Park which is near the Cabinet of Ministers and Ukrainian parliament buildings.

10:10 GMT: About 2,000 people have gathered in the center of Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea, to show support for the Ukrainian authorities, reports RIA Novosti. They are scheduled to take a train to Kiev to show their disagreement with the opposition and urge the government to stop the destabilization of the country.

The activists are carrying Ukrainian flags and placards saying, "Ukraine is not Maidan!” “No to Orange Coup,” “No to foreign intervention.”

“Those who are currently protesting on Maidan [Independence Square] are lying. This is not the opinion of the whole nation. The people of South-Eastern Ukraine have their own opinions and are indignant about the latest events in the country,” said Crimean Vice Premier Rustam Temirgaliev.

People shout slogans and wave Ukrainian and European Union flags during a mass rally on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 15, 2013. (AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev)

09:50 GMT: Opposition activists are arriving on Independence Square for a public gathering which is scheduled 12:00 local time (10:00 GMT), says RIA Novosti. Some of the protesters stayed on the square overnight.

The demonstration of the ruling Party of Regions to support the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, will take place on European Square at the same time only hundreds of meters away from Independence Square. Protesters are also starting to gather on European Square, though at the moment there are few people there except for police cordons.

So far police officials haven’t reported any violations or mass disorder in the places where the protests are scheduled.

06:50 GMT: Parliamentary by-elections are being held on Sunday in five constituencies of Ukraine, amid the ongoing mass protests in Kiev. The polling was called by parliament after the Central Electoral Commission dismissed the results of the 2012 general election, citing violations.

The Commission called upon all participants of the mass protests not to campaign for their candidates on the election day, since it would violate the law.

An astounding 70 candidates are running for the parliamentary seat in one of the constituencies. The large number resulted in ballot papers there being one meter long.

The commission is to announce the results of the by-election no later than December 30.

A protestor holds a statue of Virgin Mary during a mass rally of the opposition Independence Square in Kiev on December 15, 2013. (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)

06:15 GMT: The leader of the opposition nationalist party, Bratstvo (Brotherhood), Dmitry Korchinsky, has been put on the international wanted list, says Vasily Paskal, the head of the criminal investigation department of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

“We have information that certain members of Korchinsky’s organization – about 15 people – have been living in his office. He used them to carry out the most radical actions,” Paskal reported to the country’s interior minister.

According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, more than 300 Bratstvo activists, guided by Korchinsky, were behind the clashes outside the Presidential Administration building on December 1. They used a bulldozer to push back on a cordon of police officers and security troops. Over two hundred people, including protesters and police officers, were injured in the scuffles on that day.

On December 5, Ukrainian prosecutors made a request to the Kiev court to arrest Dmitry Korchinsky.

Ukrainian opposition supporters gather at a mass rally on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 15, 2013. (AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov)