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Dozens injured in blast outside Kiev parliament

Serguei Supinski, AFP | Riot police in front of the Ukrainian parliament during a demonstration on August 12, 2014

A grenade exploded outside Ukraine's parliament during clashes between police and nationalists against a vote to give greater powers to separatist regions in the east, killing one police officer and injuring more than 100, the interior ministry said.

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The officer killed was a 25-year-old conscript, Interior Minister Arsen Avado told reporters on Monday. Avado added that 122 people were hospitalised - most of them police officers, but also Ukrainian journalists and two French reporters.

Earlier, demonstrators scuffled with police, according to AFP. Protesters fired at least one smoke grenade that sent up a cloud of black smoke outside the building. Tear gas was used by both sides.

The clashes marked the worst outburst of violence in the capital since the new government took power in February 2014.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in a live address on television, called for life imprisonment for the person who threw the grenade and said the right-wing protesters were "worse" than the separatist rebels because they are destroying the country from within "under the guise of patriotism."

However, the right wing blamed the government, saying that it "provoked Ukrainians to protest" by presenting a bill which is tantamount to "capitulation to the Kremlin."

The interior minister reported that 30 people had been detained after the unrest.

In Monday’s acrimonious parliamentary session, a total of 265 deputies voted in favour in the first reading of a “decentralisation” bill, backed by President Petro Poroshenko’s political bloc and his government - 39 more than that required to go through.

But many coalition allies, including former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, spoke against the changes and it is open to question whether Poroshenko will be able to whip up the necessary 300 votes for it to get through a second and final reading later this year.

Approval of legislation for special status for parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are largely controlled by Russian-backed separatists, is a major element of a peace agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus, in February.

Though a ceasefire is under pressure from sporadic shelling and shooting, which government troops and rebels blame on each other, Western governments see the deal as holding out the best possible prospect for peace and are urging Ukraine to abide by the letter of the Minsk agreement.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)
 

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