Ukraine: Protesters cede control of Justice Ministry in Kiev
Radical anti-government protesters were forced to give up their brief occupation of Ukraine’s Justice Ministry on Monday after fellow opposition groups accused them of jeopardising peace negotiations.
The Justice Minister Olena Lukash threatened to declare a state of emergency unless protesters left the ministry they had seized and fortified in the early hours of Monday morning, sparking calls from fellow demonstrators for the group to refrain from escalating the confrontation with authorities.
“I will be forced to ask the President of Ukraine to stop the talks if the building is not freed immediately and negotiators are not given a chance to find a peaceful solution to the conflict,” Ms Lukash told Ukraine’s Inter channel.
The Spilna Sprava (Common Cause) group, which is occupying several buildings in the Ukrainian capital, is just one of several more radical elements within the previously peaceful protest movement and has played a key role in paralysing Kiev city centre.
The political opposition condemned the latest seizure as a step too far, which could potentially jeopardise negotiations to end the political crisis. Three protesters were killed in clashes with police last week, with hundreds more injured.
There have been numerous cases of alleged police brutality and kidnappings reported on both sides. “We denounce these provocative actions that are designed to provoke a state of emergency being called,” said Stepan Kubiv, member of parliament for the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, on Monday. “We are for peace and no more bloodshed.”
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The US ambassador to Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, tweeted that the storming of the Justice Ministry was “Bad News. Plain and simple… Especially at this key political moment”.
President Viktor Yanukovych has offered to give opposition leaders top government posts, make amendments to the constitution, and allow an amnesty for detained protesters. But the opposition said it would continue to push for further concessions – especially a key demand for early elections, currently scheduled for 2015. A special session of parliament is due to take place today to discuss the crisis.
Oleksandr Danylyuk, leader of Spilna Sprava, whose supporters are thought to number in the hundreds, said the group would leave the building, but would maintain a presence outside, ready to storm it again if the opposition’s demands are not met.
“If the demands on [the] restoring of constitutional order, organising of presidential and parliament elections and ceasing terror acts against Ukrainian people are not fulfilled tomorrow, then we will storm all administrative buildings,” Mr Danyliuk warned in a post on his Facebook page, according to the Kyiv Post.
Demonstrations began in Kiev in November after Mr Yanukovich spurned a political and trade agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia. But the protests turned violent over a week ago, after the government introduced tough new anti-protest laws. At least three people have been killed in clashes with police, and hundreds injured.
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