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UKRAINE

Ukraine warns of possible state of emergency

Photo: AFP
4 min

Ukraine’s justice minister has threatened to call for a state of emergency after anti-government activists seized the justice ministry in Kiev on Sunday, as protests continued to spread throughout the country, including to the east.

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Justice Minister Olena Lukash said she would approach Ukraine's national security council with "a demand to discuss imposing a state of emergency in this country" if protesters did not vacate the justice ministry.

Lukash, who is taking part in negotiations between the opposition and Yanukovich, also said she would ask for the negotiations to be broken off if the building was not freed.

"I will be forced to ask the president of Ukraine to stop the talks if the building is not freed immediately and negotiators are not given a chance to find a peaceful solution to the conflict," Lukash told Ukraine's Inter channel.

AFP reported that dozens of Ukrainian protesters seized the ministry by smashing its windows, after which they began to erect barricades outside the building with rubbish containers.

The unrest was also said to be spreading far outside of the capital with local media reporting that the headquarters of Yanukovich-appointed governors in Dniepropetrovsk, Sumy and Zaporizhia were under siege, along with regional offices in Transcarpathia in western Ukraine.

Opposition supporters have already occupied local government offices in 10 cities, meaning that a total of 14 out of Ukraine's 25 provinces have effectively slipped from Yanukovich's central government control.

The standoffs show the divide between a majority Ukrainian-speaking west of Ukraine and a mostly Russian-speaking east has not prevented widespread disillusionment against Yanukovich even in eastern Ukraine.

The protests started out in Kiev after Yanukovich abruptly decided to turn his back on an EU agreement but have snowballed to reflect a variety of grievances over economic and social hardship, as well as a desire for greater local autonomy.

There have now been rallies in virtually every major regional centre in the former Soviet republic, which measures about twice the size of Germany, with young activists often imitating the protest action in Kiev.

While demonstrations are frequent in the capital, confrontations of this type in many local centres are unprecedented in Ukraine's post-independence history after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Barricades and ‘people’s parliaments'

Eight police officers and two protesters were injured during clashes in Dniepropetrovsk and 14 activists were arrested, the Interfax news agency reported, citing police and local hospital sources.

Thousands of protesters also massed outside the regional administration in Zaporizhya, demanding to be allowed access but were repelled by hundreds of riot police throwing stun grenades, television images showed.

In Sumy in the country's northeast, hundreds of activists blocked off access to the local government headquarters after occupying the regional parliament nearby, reports said.

In Transcarpathia, hundreds surrounded the regional government and put up barricades, preventing officials from going to work.

Ten regional administrations already seized by protesters and several of them have already set up "people's parliaments"   made up ordinary protesters and opposition lawmakers to take day-to-day decisions.

In the key western city of Lviv, a protester "komandant" is now in charge of the regional government building and barricades have been put up to hold off the security forces.

The local governor of Lviv last week signed a letter of resignation but later said he had been pressured by protesters to do so.

His access to the building remains barred and the pro-opposition regional parliament is now de-facto in charge.

There have been clashes in three more regions, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopyl, before protesters managed to break through and occupy the buildings.

In Ivano-Frankivsk last week, the police withdrew after protester numbers swelled to 10,000 people.

In Chernivtsi, a dozen activists were injured.

Threats made against those who resist

Protesters have also occupied the regional administration building in Volyn, with the local governor kneeling in front of the protesters, begging them to avoid bloodshed.

In Chernigiv and Rivne, the occupations were mostly peaceful.

The local governor for Rivne, who is on holiday, has refused to step down but all his deputies have resigned.

In Khmelnitsky, protesters laid a funeral wreath outside the home of the governor, who has likewise resisted resignation calls.

Protesters in Vinnitsa have set up a field kitchen on the ground floor of the regional administration and institutional offices in Poltava, which were also overrun over the weekend.

There have also been anti-Yanukovich protests in Zhitomir, Cherkasy, Odessa, Mikolayev, Lugansk, Kharkiv and Kirovograd.

While protests have taken up much of the city centre in Kiev, the regional administration has so far been left untouched and is continuing as normal.

There has been no sign of protest so far in the Black Sea areas of Kherson and Crimea, officially an autonomous republic of Ukraine.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

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