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29th Mar 2020

EU and US condemn Kiev violence

  • Kiev: The US rejected comparisons with last year's 'dignified' Maidan (Photo: Marco Fieber)

The EU and US have condemned violence in Kiev, which left one policeman dead and hospitalised more than 140 people on Monday (31 August).

The worst injuries were caused when a grenade exploded in the crowd outside parliament, which was voting on a bill to give more power to regional governments.

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The man charged with the grenade attack, Ihor Humenyuk, is a 24-year old supporter of the nationalist Svoboda party who recently spent eight months on the front line in east Ukraine.

Svoboda and the populist Radical Party organised the protests because, they say, the decentralisation law is the first step to autonomy for Russian-occupied parts of the Donbas region.

The “constitutional amendments solidify the special status of Donbas and [represent an act of] capitulation to the Kremlin”, Svoboda said.

It claimed the grenade attack was “a pre-planned provocation against Ukrainian patriots”.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said on TV the bill is in line with EU demands for political reform and with the Minsk ceasefire plan.

He said it amounts to “a meager line about the peculiarities of local self-governance”, compared to Russia’s demand for federalisation, which would have given its agents in Donbas a veto on the country's EU and Nato integration.

He added that without the law “the fate of a pro-Ukrainian international coalition would be significantly undermined. Potential extension of economic sanctions that hurt the aggressor [Russia] would not be on the table”.

Arsen Avakov, the interior minister, posted an emotional statement on Facebook.

“[Svoboda leader] Tyahnybok brought to the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] not protesters, Tyahnybok brought gangsters who killed and crippled our soldiers”, he said.

MPs passed the bill, in its first reading, by 265 votes out of 400.

But Monday’s violence is the worst in Kiev since the Maidan revolution last February.

The Maidan saw activists from Svoboda and Right Sector, another nationalist group, take the lead in resistance against the former regime’s forces.

But Right Sector is also causing problems for Ukraine’s internal stability.

Clashes between Right Sector militias and Ukrainian security services near the Hungarian border in July, linked to control of cross-border smuggling, claimed two lives.

For her part, EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini, said on Monday that Ukraine’s reform “process shouldn't be jeopardised by violence. Today's events are very worrying”.

The German foreign ministry said: “Street violence is unacceptable under any circumstance, but violence against the decisions of an elected parliament is even more so”.

The US State Department welcomed the vote as “an important step towards good governance”.

It said people have a right to peaceful protests and that law enforcement agencies must “exercise restraint”.

But it “deplored” the violence and rejected comparison with police brutality against the Maidan crowds.

“By and large, yes, it [the Maidan] was a dignified, peaceful protest on behalf of the Ukrainian people”, Mark Toner, a US spokesman said.

Of the 144 people hospitalised in Kiev on Monday, 10 are in a critical condition, the authorities said on Tuesday, AP reports.

One policeman had his leg torn off below the knee by the grenade.

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