Europe

Russia's Sergei Lavrov: Ukraine getting 'out of control'

  • 21 January 2014
  • From the section Europe

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that protests in Ukraine are "getting out of control".

He described violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police as "scary" and accused EU politicians of stirring up the situation.

Tuesday saw an uneasy standoff on the street of the capital after a second consecutive night of clashes.

Young men threw fireworks and petrol bombs at police guarding the road leading up to the Ukrainian parliament.

Police beat some protesters.

Protesters have been camped out in Kiev since late November, angered by the government's turn to Moscow and its rejection of a planned treaty with the EU.

New anti-protest laws, hastily passed by parliament last week, will come into force on Wednesday.

Mr Lavrov's warning came after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday said the violence threatened the country's stability.

'Indecent'

"Members of several European governments rushed to the Maidan without any invitation and took part in anti-government demonstrations," Mr Lavrov said, referring to the square in which protesters have been encamped.

"This is simply indecent."

He did not name names, but EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the then German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited the protesters in December.

Warning that the "situation is getting out of control", Mr Lavrov added: "We have information that much of this is being stimulated from abroad," and condemned the violence as a "complete violation of European standards of behaviour".

Clashes continued throughout Monday night, with police using tear gas and stun grenades against several hundred young men who ranged against them. At times, thousands of people cheered from the sidelines.

Image copyright AP
Image caption There was a lull in the violence on Tuesday morning but fears the violence could erupt anew later in the day
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A charred bus in the city centre was an indication of the unrest of the previous nights

Eighty police have been admitted to hospital following the recent clashes, says Ukraine's interior ministry.

It says 32 protesters have been arrested, of whom 13 could face up to 15 years in jail for creating "mass disturbances", local media reported.

On Tuesday morning, lines of riot police still held the road leading up to parliament, behind burnt-out buses and barricades, reports the BBC's Daniel Sandford in Kiev.

Some people could be seen cleaning up the protest area, while others shouted and banged metal canisters.

'Paid thugs'

The violence has been restricted to a small area around Hrushevskyy Street, close to the main protest encampment at Maidan (or Independence Square), with most of the rest of the city functioning normally, say correspondents.

People standing near the fighting reported receiving a text message shortly after midnight on Tuesday, which said: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a unsanctioned rally."

Mobile phone operator KievStar denied sending the messages and it is unclear who did.

Meanwhile, peaceful protesters have blamed a little-known far-right group, Right Sector, for carrying out the violence.

Former boxing champion and opposition figure Vitali Klitschko has also accused the government of paying thugs nicknamed "titushki" to delegitimise the protests and create a pretext for the imposition of a state of emergency.

BBC Russian spoke to several suspected "titushki" detained by the opposition activists.

One, a student called Nikolai Ignatenko, said: "We weren't told anything about what to do. We stood by the metro and waited. They gave us hammers - that's all".

Artyom Nemchenko, a college student, said he had done it for money after seeing an offer online, and that they had been instructed to "stir up trouble".

The new protest laws prescribe jail terms for anyone blockading public buildings, and ban the wearing of masks or helmets at demonstrations.

They also outlaw unauthorised tents in public areas.

Talks mooted between President Yanukovych and opposition leaders failed to materialise; instead their deputies met on Monday.

Lesya Orobets, an MP for the Fatherland opposition party, said the talks "showed almost no result", and called for a high-ranking foreign mediator to oversee the talks.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Protesters on Monday night put together their own improvised armoured outfits in order to confront police
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A makeshift catapult built by protesters was later dismantled by police
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The protesters are demanding the resignation of President Yanukovych and early elections

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