Skip to main content

Ukraine: Clashes rage on between protesters, police in Kiev

By Laura Smith-Spark and Victoria Butenko, CNN
updated 11:37 AM EST, Thu January 23, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Protest laws pose threat to freedom of expression, civil society, U.N. rights chief says
  • Anti-government protesters and police clash overnight in downtown Kiev
  • Authorities say more than 30 people have been detained; 119 police officers injured
  • A new law that sets limits on the right to protest goes into effect Wednesday

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- Violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police continued in the center of Ukraine's capital, Kiev, overnight into Tuesday.

Demonstrators have been rallying since the weekend in defiance of new laws that limit the right to protest.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that more than 30 protesters had been detained and 119 police officers injured since Sunday afternoon, when the clashes began.

The city health care department reported 122 injured and 50 hospitalized. The number injured is probably higher, as many people reportedly turn to medical volunteers for help rather than official services for fear of consequences. Protest organizers said those treated in hospitals are questioned by police and registered as participants of mass protests, which may lead to arrest and criminal charges.

Ukrainians rally against new law
Beaten journalist: I have lots of enemies
Opposition leader: This is a bad deal

Protesters and police have accused each other of violence.

The controversial new protest laws go into effect Wednesday, raising concerns they could be used to put down demonstrations.

Opposition politicians have objected to the way that lawmakers loyal to Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych pushed the legislation through parliament last week by a show of hands.

The new laws include provisions barring people from wearing helmets and masks to rallies, from setting up tents or sound equipment without prior police permission, and from traveling in convoys of more than five vehicles without authorization.

A separate Interior Ministry order allowing riot police to use firearms came into force Tuesday, according to the official Ukrainian legislation website.

The latest clashes are an escalation of weeks of largely peaceful public protests prompted by Yanukovych's decision in November to spurn a planned trade deal with the European Union and turn toward Russia instead.

Yanukovych's official website said Tuesday that a newly formed government working group had met to discuss the political crisis and that it had been joined by opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, a former champion boxer.

However, a news release from Klitschko's UDAR party denied that he had taken part in the meeting, saying he had gone to the presidential administration building only to speak with Yanukovych and left when the President was not available.

Russian foreign minister urges dialogue

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned at an annual news conference Tuesday in Moscow that the situation in Ukraine was "getting out of control" and pointed the finger at some opposition leaders.

"Now there are problems, attacks on the police, Molotov cocktails. This is beastly. It is an absolute violation of all European standards," he said.

He called on all parties involved to resolve the situation through dialogue.

Lavrov suggested the interference of some European Union countries in Ukraine's internal situation was not helping. Russia is doing all it can to support the stability of the country, he said.

Ukraine's Institute of Mass Information, an organization promoting media rights and freedom of speech, said 34 journalists had been injured while reporting on the clashes.

There are also reports that hired thugs, armed with baseball bats and sticks, were trying to scare people in the city center.

Jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said in a prepared statement Monday that she would be on the streets with the protesters if she were free.

She accused the Ukrainian government of having driven "peaceful and optimistic Ukrainians" into a corner by taking away their rights to protest. "Those standing on the front lines for Ukraine are heroes!" she said.

Concerns about 'anti-democratic legislation'

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday described the violent clashes in Kiev as "very worrying" and said there was an urgent need for dialogue to avoid an escalation of violence.

Pillay also called on the government to suspend implementation of the new protest laws so they can be reviewed.

"I am particularly concerned by the potential that these laws have to curtail the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the right to information, the right of civil society to work freely," she said. "The laws also have the potential to result in impunity for human rights violations."

EU foreign ministers and foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton also expressed "deep concern" Monday about the legislation and called for a democratic solution to the political crisis.

The EU "calls on all actors to exercise restraint and on the authorities to fully respect and protect the peaceful demonstrators' right to assembly and speech, and the freedom of the press," it said.

The White House urged all sides to "immediately de-escalate the situation."

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council, called on Ukraine's government to repeal the "anti-democratic legislation signed into law in recent days," withdraw riot police from downtown Kiev and begin a dialogue with the opposition.

She said the United States would continue to consider additional steps -- including sanctions -- in response to the use of violence.

Russian gas deal

In December, despite weeks of protest by anti-government demonstrators, Yanukovych agreed to a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin for Moscow to buy Ukrainian debt and slash the price Kiev pays for its gas.

The tumult in Ukraine goes to the heart of its future ties with Russia and the rest of Europe. Ukraine is split between pro-European regions in the west and a more Russia-oriented east.

The protests have unfolded since November 21, when Yanukovych changed his stance on the EU trade pact, which had been years in the making.

The demonstrators say an EU agreement would open borders to trade and set the stage for modernization and inclusion. Ukraine's government says the terms needed to be renegotiated to protect Ukrainians better.

Read: Ukraine: Demonstrators rally against new law curbing protests

Read: Opinion: The West's problem is not Ukraine -- it's Russia

Read: Ukraine protests: 5 things you need to know

Journalist Victoria Butenko reported from Kiev, and CNN's Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Watch as Ukranian armored trucks, helicopters, and artillery move into position.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Economist Jeffrey Sachs explains how Russia is attempting to prevent Ukraine from allying with the West.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
With the crisis continuing to escalate, U.S. President Obama can choose between four courses of action, says Frida Ghitis.
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves calls for a physical presence on the ground in the region to deter Russia's Putin.
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
As the crisis in Ukraine intensifies, Google maps in Russia officially annexes Crimea. CNN's Jake Tapper reports.
updated 4:32 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
The war of words between Russia and Ukraine shows no sign of stopping. CNN's Diana Magnay reports.
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
CNN's Paula Newton speaks to the WTO's Roberto Azevedo about how the Ukrainian crisis is affecting the global economy.
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
President Obama's statements have allowed Russia to act with impunity, argues David Frum.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Sat April 12, 2014
The West didn't provoke Putin - Putin has painted himself into a corner, argues Robin Niblett.
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, what is happening to the trade ties between the different players involved?
updated 5:12 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Satellite photos show the extent of Russia's military mobilization on its border with Ukraine, say officials.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Everyday Ukrainian citizens are feeling the pain as the cost of unsubsidized Russian fuel goes up. Kellie Morgan reports.
updated 6:10 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Could this territory be the site of Putin's next ambitious move?
updated 6:04 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Will Vladimir Putin be remembered for squandering "a promising legacy" for Russia?
updated 10:36 PM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
It's part of the latest U.S. military effort to demonstrate support for Eastern European allies concerned about Russia's troop buildup along its border with Ukraine.
updated 11:11 PM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
Ukranian novelist Andrey Kurkov says war with Russia is on everyone's minds.
updated 9:57 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Images from Crimea, Donetsk, Kiev and elsewhere as the future of Ukraine lies in doubt.
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Scenes from Ukraine and Crimea, captured by CNN teams.
Have you witnessed the protests in Ukraine? Send us your images and video, but please stay safe.
ADVERTISEMENT