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Hundreds wounded as police and protesters clash in freezing temperatures in Ukraine

More than 200 people were wounded amid mounting fury over draconian new anti-protest laws.

Protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a clash with police in central Kiev.
Protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a clash with police in central Kiev.
Image: Evgeny Feldman/PA Wire

RADICAL OPPOSITION PROTESTORS today battled Ukrainian police in new clashes after bloody fighting the day earlier wounded more than 200 people amid mounting fury over draconian new anti-protest laws.

The clashes, the worst in Kiev in recent times, marked a spiralling of tensions after two months of demonstrations against President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a pact for closer integration with the EU.

Amid growing fears the police could act to violently disperse the protest, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka warned protesters to halt “mass rioting”, describing it as a crime against the state.

After a night of violence that continued into the early hours, thousands of Ukrainians returned to the streets on Monday despite temperatures of minus -10 degrees Celsius.

In the epicentre of the clashes outside the entrance to the iconic Dynamo Kiev football stadium in central Kiev, both sides hunkered down behind barricades in an increasingly explosive standoff.

The protesters lobbed stones dug up from the cobbled road and flung Molotov cocktails over a 20-metre  no-man’s land at police lines.

Police responded by throwing stun grenades and occasionally using rubber bullets and tear gas.

“It is necessary to immediately halt the mass rioting which bears a threat to state security. It is not just hooliganism. It is a crime against the state,” Pshonka said in a statement.

(Youtube/RuptlyTV)

Tymoshenko backs radical protesters

The burned-out wrecks of half a dozen police vehicles torched and destroyed the day earlier were used by the protesters as a barricade.

According to the Kiev health authorities, more than 100 protesters were wounded in yesterday’s clashes, with four people sustaining serious injuries to eyes and limbs.

The interior ministry said more than 100 members of the security forces had been wounded.

The ministry added that 20 people had been arrested for mass rioting. US-funded Ukrainian radio station Radio Svoboda said two of its journalists had been arrested this morning while filming at the scene.

Opposition leaders, including former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, appeared unable to have any influence on the hard core of radical protesters and stopped short of supporting their actions.

But Ukraine’s jailed former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko came out in support of those clashing with police, saying she would be with them if she could.

“Protect Ukraine and do not fear anything. Ukraine has no defence other than you. You are heroes,” she said in a statement read by her spokeswoman to AFP.

image An elderly protestor prepares to throw a stone, during clashes with police. (Pic: Sergei Grits/AP Photo)

‘The most repressive laws’

The White House urged an end to the violence, with US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying that Washington was deeply concerned and urging “all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation”.

The spokeswoman warned that Washington was still considering sanctions against Ukrainian officials, a step urged by the Ukrainian opposition.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday deplored the violence, saying the government was at fault for adopting the repressive laws.

The new laws allow for jail terms of up to five years for those who blockade public buildings and the arrest of protesters wearing masks or helmets. Other provisions ban the dissemination of “slander” on the Internet.

© – AFP 2014

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