Kiev protests turn violent

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Originally published on January 20, 2014

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Clashes broke out between riot police and protesters in Ukraine's capital Kiev on Sunday (January 19). The mass street protests were in defiance of recent laws limiting the rights of protesters.

The clashes highlight the political divide between Ukraine's pro-Europe west and pro-Russian east. President Viktor Yanukovich was elected in 2010, winning 48 percent of the vote to his opposition's 45 percent, with most of the support coming from the eastern pro-Russian part of Ukraine that favors deeper integration with Russia. The western districts strongly favor Ukraine moving towards the European Union. Russia has tried to push Ukraine closer into its orbit by offering the nation US$15 billion in credit and cheaper prices for natural gas. In exchange, Russia wants Ukraine to move away from trade deals with the EU.

The protest turned violent again on Sunday after some 10,000 people took to the streets in defiance of new laws limiting public protests. Some protesters mocked a government ban on wearing helmets by donning colanders and saucepans.

Reports say the protests were mainly peaceful until demonstrations associated with the far-right began to clash with police. A police bus was set aflame as protesters and police attacked each other. Thirty police and ten protesters were reportedly sent to hospital with injuries. Four individuals are said to be in serious condition.

One of the main opposition leaders, boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, said that President Viktor Yanukovich had agreed to meet him on Monday to set up a committee to look for solutions to Ukraine's political crisis, but Klitschko also issued an indirect threat to the president, telling him to "stop conducting war on the citizens of Ukraine" and thereby avoid the fate of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

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