Police in the Ukrainian capital cleared the landmark Independence Square of pro-EU demonstrators on Saturday morning. Police used tear gas and clubs, while protesters threw stones at law enforcement.
Authorities in Kiev stepped in to disperse demonstrators at around 4:30 am local time (02:30 GMT). According to opposition activists, around 1,000 policemen from the special task force, Berkut, armed with clubs and shields swept Independence Square clear of the remaining demonstrators that had chosen to stay overnight in the capital’s downtown area.
"It was horrible. We were holding a peaceful demonstration and they attacked us," a protester told AP. "They threw us away like garbage."
At least 35 people were injured in the clashes with seven of them still remaining in hospital. Over 30 people were detained.
The square was surrounded by police early in the morning and mobile phone communication in the area was suppressed. After the police used force to disperse the crowd, some protesters went to St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery about 500 meters away from the square to take shelter in its cathedral.
Yanukovich blew the pandora's box wide open by dispersing the Maidan protest. A new one is gathering already pic.twitter.com/g9SfnwVFue
— Alexey Yaroshevsky (@Yaro_RT) November 30, 2013
According to one of the protest organizers, police used tear gas and swung clubs at protesters, Sergey Milnichenko told the AP. The demonstrators stoned police buses in return. Some demonstrators were detained and taken into custody, activists reported.
Authorities told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency that the decision to break up the protests came after “a number of incidents and clashes” between pro-EU supporters and the police. During the demonstration protesters threw rocks and fireworks at police and activists also damaged a police bus.
Police actions followed large-scale demonstrations earlier on Friday that had gathered an estimated 10,000 people, calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych as he refused to sign the association agreement with the EU.
Arseny Yatsenyuk, leader of the pro-Western faction opposition and a former minister of economy, has announced that opposition forces have decided to form a ‘national resistance command’ to organize and coordinate a Ukrainian national strike.
Yatsenyuk stressed that the initiative is supported among other opposition factions. The politician has once again said the responsibility for police action against pro-EU demonstrators in Kiev lies with the country’s president and Minister of Interior Vitaly Zakharchenko.
The EU delegation to Ukraine issued a statement calling on the Ukrainian authorities to refrain from using force on protesters.
In an interview published on Friday, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Jeffrey Payette, warned against using force against protesters in Ukraine, mentioning “serious consequences” on the part of Washington if this condition is not met.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland, Markiyan Malsky, was summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry for an explanation in connection with the beating of two Polish citizens in Kiev during the protests, spokesman for the Polish Foreign Minister, Marcin Wojciechowski, wrote on his Twitter account.
The ministry also issued a statement on its website on Saturday, saying that “forceful dispersion of peaceful demonstrations does not help the cause of Ukraine's integration with Europe.”
“We caution Ukrainian authorities against using force as it may carry unpredictable and irrevocable consequences”.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov considers the government’s crackdown on the protesters a provocation, the Ukrainian Independent Information Agency reports.
"What is clear is that the government is not interested in such provocations, but rather it is interested in stability and peace in the country. Therefore the investigation, according to the prime minister, should be transparent,” said the PM’s spokesman, Vitaly Lukyanenko.
Azarov urged the people not to give in to provocations, “not
to believe all sorts of rumors”, to separate facts from
On Friday Ukraine rejected a key integration deal with Europe, as the opposition held large rallies in protest against the rejection.
The deal was rejected in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, where European leaders gathered. Unlike Moldova, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which signed the first documents towards association agreements with the EU, Ukraine stuck to its decision not to integrate with the union.
Even after announcing that there would be no deal, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich went to the summit to personally explain his government’s move. He said it would be too painful for the Ukrainian economy to start association agreements with the EU now.