Ukraine protests: police officer shot dead as violence continues in Kiev despite 'concessions'

Fresh clashes as hundreds of protesters fortified new barricades in the centre of the capital -at least three protesters killed during unrest

Kiev

A 27-year-old police officer has been shot dead in Kiev according to the Interior Ministry.

The body of the man was found with a gunshot wound to the head in the Holosiyivo district, said local media reports published on Friday.

It is not known whether the purported death of the police officer, who has not been identified, is linked to the clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police which have engulfed central Kiev this week. At least three protesters are said to have died in the unrest, with hundreds more injured.

There were fresh clashes with police in central Kiev in the early hours of Saturday morning as protesters set light to a huge mound of tires near the Dynamo Kiev Stadium. Fireworks and small explosions could be seen erupting over the wall of fire.

The mood in the Ukrainian capital remained tense overnight with many protesters in the Maidan – Kiev’s Independence Square – carrying large clubs as they walked through the encampment, which is surrounded by barricades blocking major streets.

 

The Ukrainian President vowed on Friday to make concessions in an apparent attempt to restore calm after the mass anti-government protests, which have been taking place relatively peacefully in Kiev since November, spread across the country.

Viktor Yanukovych attempted to defuse the tension by promising to reshuffle his cabinet, amend tough new anti-protest laws and involve opposition leaders in an ‘anti-crisis’ committee.

“I will do all I can to stop this conflict, to stop this violence and establish stability,” Mr Yanukovych told a meeting of church leaders yesterday, according to his website.

The move came as hundreds of protesters fortified new barricades in the centre of the capital Kiev, which has been engulfed by violent clashes between demonstrators and riot police this week. Three people have been killed and hundreds injured.

Anti-government protesters hurl Molotov cocktails and burn tires during clashes with police on Hrushevskoho Street Anti-government protesters hurl Molotov cocktails and burn tires during clashes with police on Hrushevskoho Street Despite offering concessions, to be decided on formally at a special session on parliament on Tuesday, Mr Yanukovych also warned that “all legal methods” would be used against violent protesters if a solution to the standoff is not found.

The concessions offered fall short of demands made by Ukraine’s three major opposition groups, led by world champion boxer–turned-politician Vitali Klitschko which have called for the dismissal of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s government and early elections. There was no immediate response from the opposition groups last night.

The protests in Kiev began in November after Mr Yanukovych, who hails from the mainly Russian-speaking east of Ukraine, spurned a political and trade agreement with the EU in favour of closer economic ties with Russia. Though the demonstrations began peacefully as a show of support for a move towards the West, a heavy-handed response from riot police and the passing of sweeping anti-protest laws last week prompted a show of defiance against what many see as a state crackdown on basic freedoms.

“You can either stay at home, or you can come and fight for your future,” 26-year-old Viktor Ordynovych told The Independent. The bank worker from Lviv said he had come to Kiev to fight for the principle of Ukrainian independence and support the anti-corruption message.

A protester throws a tire onto a fire in Kiev A protester throws a tire onto a fire in Kiev Incidents of police brutality have fuelled public anger against authorities, prompting the Interior Ministry to apologise this week for the “unacceptable actions of the people in police uniform”.

A small but active group of protesters claiming to belong to the far-right group known as the ‘Right Sector’ have been blamed for the violent turn the protests took this week. The loose grouping has stated it aims to overthrow Mr Yanukovych’s “regime”. Mr Yanukovych’s government has condemned violent protesters as “terrorists”.

Germany and France, which have condemned the use of violence against protesters, summoned Ukraine's ambassadors yesterday. The US has threatened “consequences” if the government fails to take steps to scale down the confrontation.

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