Ukrainian protest deaths shake media

A riot police officer aims at demonstrators during clashes between protestors and police in the centre of Kiev on January 22, 2014. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Media overwhelmingly condemns violence predicting further unrest

The Ukrainian media are aghast at the first deaths in clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters in central Kiev, with many carrying striking images of violent scenes and some comparing the situation to "hell".

Others speak of a "true revolution" and a "point of no return" and some even fear the clashes could turn into a "guerrilla war" in the capital and across the country. Both the government and opposition receive blame for the stand-off.


"Uprising amid hell," reads a headline in the opposition-leaning daily Ukrayina Moloda.

"This is an uprising of the masses, a true revolution, the war of a large number of people against the authorities, and a manifestation by the authorities of their unwillingness to hear the voice of the majority of citizens who have been protesting for two months already," the paper says.

"Dialogue or point of no return," reads a headline in the analytical daily Den.


Most media, including state-owned newspapers, condemn the latest violence but they differ in their opinion as to who is responsible.

"The use of force and violent actions are an inadmissible method for settling a political crisis," the pro-government Uryadovyy Kuryer says.

Both the authorities and the opposition are to blame but the main responsibility rests with the government, Den says.

The daily says opposition "continues to rally people to the Maydan" - Kiev's Independence Square - but for two months "it has failed to come up with a realistic action plan, or meet at least some of the demands put forward by the protesters" and the government is criticised for having "failed to listen to the people and ruling out a compromise".

Other outlets, such as the Glavkom, Glavred and Forbes websites, print remarks by prominent figures who declare their backing for one side or the other.

Glavkom carries an interview with Oleksandr Skybynetskyy, a former senior security official, who says the "full responsibility for the situation rests with the authorities" who "have one last chance to pull back".

"I do not know what instructions they have, but shooting at unarmed people is the height of idiocy. The protesters out there have sticks, not machine guns," the official is quoted as saying.

However, not everyone is critical of the police actions.

The events in Independence Square are a "violation of all laws", former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk tells the Forbes website, adding that he is "thankful to the lads, Berkut [riot police]".

"They are going through an incredible test: they are being beaten, having stones and petrol bombs thrown at them, but they are just standing there and toughing it out. There are few countries where servicemen would tolerate this," Mr Kravchuk says.

The Glavred website quotes Arsen Klinchayev, a regional councillor from Luhansk Region in eastern Ukraine - Mr Yanukovych's stronghold - saying "no-one has a right to use force against police" and protesters "should be arrested and jailed".

What next?

Pundits interviewed by the popular daily Segodnya show little optimism that the crisis could be resolved peacefully.

"There can be no peaceful resolution," pundit Volodymyr Fesenko predicted. The next phase will be "a guerrilla war in the streets of Kiev and elsewhere, possibly leading to some other forms of fighting which will not be possible to contain."

Pundit Vadym Karasyov is almost certain the protests will continue.

"We can bid farewell to the image of quiet and calm Ukraine in a cherry orchard. A country of extremist groups, left and right sectors has been born," the pundit tells Segodnya.

Writing in the Ukrainian edition of the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, Volodymyr Tsybulko ponders what might happen if the country's politicians are not able to reach a compromise.

"If the political class is unable to find a compromise within itself, this is a very disturbing signal. In fact, there is a risk of the country becoming a failed state," he said.

Speculating on possible introduction of sanctions against Ukrainian officials and businessmen by the US and the EU, the Ukrainian edition of the Russian business daily Kommersant quotes experts as suggesting that "this tool will not bring about a change of government in Ukraine".

"Even if they want to, oligarchs will not be able to persuade Viktor Yanukovych to step down, however, in the current situation, holding onto power is a matter of life or death for him. However, if sanctions are expanded to include the oligarchs, this might limit the resources of the authorities," analyst Vadym Horbach told the paper.

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