Special forces begin crackdown on Ukraine protestors
Ukraine will draw on a new anti-protest law to use force against demonstrators in Kiev, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said yesterday (21 January). Special 'Berkut' forces began their crackdown on Kyiv's EuroMaidan square at 8 a.m., according to reports, with the first victim confirmed.
"If provocateurs do not stop, then the authorities will have no other choice but to use force under the legislation and protect our people," Azarov said, speaking to the Russian TV channel "Vesti 24". Azarov added that he hoped that common sense would prevail.
However, he said that the question of a state of emergency in Ukraine was not on the agenda, because the government had an opportunity to solve the problem another way. "The situation in Kyiv is far from that, when you need even theoretically to consider the possibility of introducing a state of emergency," Azarov said.
The controversial new laws, branded as "dictatorship" laws by the pro-EU opposition, are aimed at cracking down on the opposition and enter into force today (see background).
According to the website of the Ukrainian daily Pravda, the 'Berkut' special forces have started their attack on protestors at 8 a.m. local time. According to sources, 8.000 people, including 4.631 interior troops, 1.460 police forces and 1530 ‘Berkut’ special forces will take part in the “cleansing” of the central area of Kyiv from protesters.
Two people killed
Two people have reportedly been killed, both at the age of 40. According to TV Channel 5, the name of one of them is Sergei Nigoyan. According to the BBC correspondent in Ukraine, one of the heads of the medical service of the EuroMaydan protestors confirmed the death of a a second protestor in the street clashes in Hrushevskoho street. Reportedly, the young man received four gunshot wounds. His death took place around 6 a.m. local time.
The Ministry of Interior confirmed the second death.
“There is a dead body. It is located at the place where medical assistance is provided. The nature of wounds and injuries is not yet established”, Pravda quotes the police.
Social media circulate photos of police “on safari”, that is, shooting at protestors.
More than 30 journalists have been wounded during the recent confrontations. According to reports, special forces specially aim at journalists, which wear distinctive reflector vests, firing plastic bullets in the head.
According to the new legislation, GSM data can be used as evidence against protestors. Yesterday many people in the EuroMaidan area of Kyiv received an SMS reading "Dear subscriber, you are registered as participant in a mass disturbance".
In the meantime, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov Russia told European governments on to stop meddling in Ukraine's political crisis, warning that events could be spinning out of control.
This article will be updated as the situation develops. The website Levyi bereg offers a live broadcast from EuroMaidan
The Ukrainian government announced on 21 November that it had decided to stop its preparations to sign an Association Agreement (AA) with the EU.
Following the news that Yanukovich failed to sign the AA at the Vilnius summit on 28-29 November, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets, demanding his resignation [read more]. The protests, called EuroMaidan, have lasted ever since.
On 16 January supporters of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich hastily pushed through in Parliament new laws, in an attempt to curb anti-government protests. The Commission called these laws “shocking” and “disrespectful to democracy” [read more].
The new legislation, which ran to more than 100 pages and a summary of which in English was obtained by EurActiv, appeared directed mainly at preparing the ground for action to end the street protests.