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Europe

Fresh protests in Kiev as opposition calls for elections

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-01

Around 10,000 anti-government protesters gathered outside a monastery in Kiev Saturday where demonstrators had earlier taken shelter after violent clashes with police. Opposition leaders have called for fresh elections and a national strike.

Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered outside a monastery in Ukraine capital Kiev Saturday where demonstrators had earlier taken shelter following violent clashes with police.

Yanukovich ‘outraged’ by violence

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has said he is “deeply outraged” by Saturday’s violent clashes between protesters and police in Kiev.

"I condemn the actions which led to a confrontation and people suffering," Yanukovich said in a statement on Saturday evening.

The president said he had ordered an investigation “in order to properly punish those responsible”, but did not specifically blame the police.

The renewed protests came as opposition leaders, angered by President Viktor Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a pro-European Union agreement, called for early elections and a nationwide strike.

Early Saturday, officers in riot gear moved against several hundred protesters still camped at Kiev’s main Independence Square following bigger demonstrations on Friday night in the city center, beating some with truncheons.

TV footage showed police beating one young woman on the legs and kicking young men on the ground. Several people were given emergency treatment on the spot for cuts to the head.

The interior ministry said the riot police moved in “after the protesters began to resist the (ordinary uniformed) police, throwing trash, glasses, bottles of water and flares at them”.

Fleeing the clashes, some protesters went to the St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery about 500 meters away to take shelter in its cathedral.

By Saturday afternoon, around 10,000 demonstrators had gathered on the square outside the monastery, shouting chants of “shame” and “resign”.

‘National resistance’

Opposition leaders, who late on Friday had urged protesters to continue campaigning for a European future for the ex-Soviet republic, condemned the police crackdown and said it would call a country-wide strike.

“We have taken a common decision to form a headquarters of national resistance and we have begun preparations for an all-Ukraine national strike,” former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, one of three opposition leaders, told journalists.

They wanted the resignation of the government and early parliamentary and presidential elections to force out President Viktor Yanukovich, he said, and were due to meet for talks with EU ambassadors later on Saturday.

Tension had been building in Kiev since Friday, when Yanukovich walked away from signing the pact with EU leaders at a summit in Lithuania, going back on a pledge to work toward integrating his ex-Soviet republic into the European mainstream.

About 10,000 people had rallied on Independence Square Friday evening to protest Yanukovych’s backing off from the pact that had been eagerly anticipated by Ukrainians who want their country to break out of Moscow’s orbit and tilt to the West.

Opinion surveys in recent months showed about 45 percent of Ukrainians supporting closer integration with the EU and a third or less favoring closer ties with Russia.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-11-30

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