Ukrainians protest for easing of anti-virus shutdown

Kiev (AFP) –


Several hundred small business owners protested in Kiev on Wednesday, demanding the authorities ease anti-virus measures to save them from bankruptcy.

Wearing surgical masks, demonstrators briefly blocked traffic outside a government building in the city centre in defiance of rules against public gatherings, an AFP journalist reported.

"One more day of your protection and we will disappear!" read one slogan.

Ukraine has confirmed 9,866 coronavirus cases, including 250 deaths, according to official statistics published Wednesday.

Authorities in one of Europe's poorest nations are hesitant to ease lockdown measures, which critics say do unnecessary damage to the economy.

In March, the government ordered all non-essential business to close, with grocery stores and pharmacies permitted to remain open.

Current lockdown measures are due to be lifted in mid-May.

Public transport has been reserved for employees of essential services, including police and hospital staff.

Almost 40 percent of Ukrainians said they were experiencing financial problems due to the pandemic, and 45 percent that they had exhausted their savings, according to an independent survey published last week.

Local media reports that Mykola Tyshchenko from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party was continuing to run a luxury restaurant in Kiev has fuelled frustrations.