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Ukrainian protesters set up catapult to fire at police (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Published time: January 20, 2014 17:38
Edited time: January 21, 2014 19:45

Protesters build a catapult to throw stones during clashes with police in Kiev January 20, 2014. (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

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Anti-government protesters in Kiev have set up an improvised catapult, launching stones and firecrackers at police cordons. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has accused the opposition of arming aggressive protesters with dangerous weapons.

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Sunday’s violent riots have raised the spirits of some Ukrainian protesters to the point they no longer feel besieged by the police – rather, they think of themselves as the besiegers. Makeshift weapons and “crusader” shields that were earlier used in clashes with the police have now been joined by a “real” siege engine.

RT's Ruptly crew filmed the catapult in action after it finally became operational.

The catapult was later destroyed by police, RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky reported.

Puzzled protesters and journalists watched Monday as a group of masked people studied some plans, standing next to a pile of long wooden poles they had carried to a central Kiev area earlier.

It soon turned out the protesters were building a catapult – or, as some argued, a trebuchet.

The process sparked a Twitter storm, as excited users and onlookers waited for the catapult to deliver its first test shot. Some were celebrating the new protesters’ capability to “spew fire” and stones at the police. The metaphor appeared to be quite serious after Molotov cocktails were thrown directly at the police Sunday night.

Others appeared less fascinated by the anti-police weapon.

“What the hell is this catapult about? Have they watched too much Lord of the Rings?” one Twitter user wrote.

“Templars, catapults… Is Ukraine living in the 14th century?!” another one wondered.

Footage from the scene showed the catapult fully ready for launch.

However, the test firing proved to be something of a damp squib, with the projectile landing harmlessly some 10 meters away.

After hours of fixing, the catapult appeared to be working better, and protesters flocked around it to load and fire rocks.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry on Monday condemned the “commandants of Maidan” – the deputies from the opposition representing the protesters rallying in central Independence Square – for providing rioters with “dangerous cold steel arms.”

The opposition deputies are handing aggressive protesters “two meter-long wooden sticks with sharp metal tips,” the ministry said. The improvised weapons are going to be used to harm law enforcement officers, it said.

The MPs are abusing their immunity for forming illegal armed units and inciting mass disorder, the ministry said.

Ukrainian rioters use a catapult during clashes with the police in central Kiev on January 20, 2014.(AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov)
While thousands of Ukrainians on Sunday peacefully rallied on Maidan to protest the recently passed legislation they consider undemocratic, heavy-handed and aimed at persecuting the opposition, hundreds of radical protesters pelted police cordons with stones and petrol bombs. The riots resulted in dozens of policemen suffering injuries and several burnt out police buses, but the much-anticipated forceful dispersal of protest rally did not ensue.

Reports from Maidan said the protesters have been divided over the role of the aggressive radicals in protests, some arguing they are necessary to bring down the government of the President Viktor Yanukovich, and others saying such riots only undermine the movement that started last year in protest of Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the EU association agreement.

The police opted for tear gas and stun grenades to contain the rioting crowd, which the Ridus website estimated at around 2,000 people.

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