Vitali Klitschko caught up in clashes as tens of thousands defy Ukraine protest ban

Heavyweight boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko caught up in demonstrations in capital Kiev

Demonstrators armed with flares and fire extinguishers battled with riot police on the streets of Kiev on Sunday night as anger mounted among the tens of thousands of Ukrainians rallying against their government in defiance of new anti-protest laws.

Vitali Klitschko, the boxer-turned-opposition leader, had urged supporters in Independence Square to remain calm and refrain from provoking the police. But after a largely peaceful day of speeches and chanting in the bitter January cold, a small group of protesters attacked police with flares, fireworks, sticks and fire extinguishes as they tried to breach the parliament building.

Protesters rammed and smashed the windows on buses forming a barrier to the parliament, while police protected themselves with their shields as plumes of smoke and fireworks shot into the air. As night fell the splinter  group appeared to be pulling back and rejoining some  of the estimated 100,000  people who had packed into central Kiev.

A legal push by President Viktor Yanukovych to cripple the protest movement brought many people back out on the streets after a Christmas and New Year lull, and spurred some of the most violent scenes seen so far in the two months of rallies against the government.

“Yanukovich and his henchmen want to steal our country,” Mr Klitschko, who is expected to challenge the incumbent in Presidential elections next year, told the crowds before the outbreak of violence. “Ukraine is united as never before in its struggle against those in power today, in its determination not to allow a dictatorship.”

Many of the protesters were wearing pots and pans or construction helmets on their heads, a symbol of defiance against the new anti-protest laws, which were rushed through parliament on Thursday. They include a ban on wearing hard hats or masks at rallies, fines and prison sentences for setting up unauthorised tents or stages, and curbs on the dissemination of “extremist information” about the nation’s leaders.

The new laws are aimed at extinguishing a protest movement which began on 21 November after President Yanukovych abruptly backed out of signing an agreement promising closer trade and political ties with the European Union. His decision to instead turn to Russia for financial assistance outraged many people who had pinned their hopes for a more prosperous future on closer ties with the EU, rather than with their former Soviet rulers.

The battle for Ukraine’s soul has also soured relations between the EU and Russia, with European politicians accusing Moscow of using blackmail and bribery to keep Kiev within their sphere of influence. This week the EU announced that they were cancelling a dinner with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during EU-Russia summit on  28 January to show it was not “business as usual”.

Current events in Ukraine are expected to be discussed on Monday at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. The EU and US have already expressed concern about the new laws. The US State Department issued a communiqué calling them “undemocratic”.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko was sprayed with a fire extinguisher after he tried to calm protesters Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko was sprayed with a fire extinguisher after he tried to calm protesters

The EU envoy to Ukraine, Jan Tombinsky, said the way the law was rushed through parliament with MPs voting with a show of hands rather the usual electronic voting system, which allows the opposition to block legislation, suggested that the “credibility of democratic institutions and of the legal system is at stake”.

While Sunday represented the largest numbers on the streets so far this year, Mr Yanukovych does have the backing of many Ukrainians, particularly in the East of the country. It is unclear if the protesters will be able to bring about any significant changes before the February 2015  elections.

Opposition leaders have announced a plan to start a petition and collect signatures expressing a lack of confidence in the government, and want to set up a people’s assembly with a new constitution.  Mr Yanukovych does however retain a majority in parliament and last month survived a vote of no confidence tabled by  the opposition.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Life & Style
life
VIDEO
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit