Western diplomats yesterday urged Ukrainian authorities to respect the massive protests gripping the country against the government’s decision to freeze ties with the EU and turn to Moscow instead.
Several thousand activists kept up the demonstrations at a central square in the capital, Kiev, and besieged government meetings as the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe’s ministerial council began its meeting on the other side of the river. The meeting had been scheduled long before the protests that have been dominating the country.
US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland challenged Ukrainian authorities to meet the protests constructively.
“This is Ukraine’s moment to meet the aspirations of its people or disappoint them,” she told the OSCE meeting. “Democratic norms and the rule of law must be upheld.”
British Minister for Europe David Liddington called on authorities to respect the right of citizens to “peacefully assemble.”
“The eyes of the world are on Ukraine today,” he said.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov tried to put a positive spin on the tense situation, saying the protests “are a completely normal development in a country where democracy is developing.”
“We will do everything we can to ensure this is a peaceful protest,” Azarov said.
With Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych away in China, the government showed no sign of yielding to the protests. Police have promised not to use force, but law enforcement bodies were detaining and investigating scores of opposition activists.
Azarov has also warned several pro-EU western cities in Ukraine that have gone on a strike that the central government in Kiev might cut off funding to them.
The demonstrations were sparked by Yanukovych’s decision to ditch a significant treaty with the 28-nation EU after strong pressure from Russia. They were also galvanized by riot police’s violent breakup of a small, peaceful rally last month.
The protesters are demanding that the government resign and that early elections be called.
Azarov chided the demonstrators, who have occupied or blocked government buildings, saying they are contradicting the values that they claim to support.
“That is not the European way forward,” Azarov said of the building occupations.
He also said Ukraine remains committed to moving forward with the EU association and characterized Yanukovych’s shelving of the signing as only a pause.
“The timeout we have taken is clearly taken only because of economic difficulties,” he said.
Ukraine says it cannot absorb the trade losses with Russia it likely would suffer if it had signed the EU agreement last month.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking directly after Nuland at the conference, notably did not mention the Ukrainian protests, which have had a strong anti-Russian element.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government is determined to bring Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, back into its area of influence.
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
IRRESPONSIBLE ATTITUDES? Some experts say the NHI system does not do enough to educate the public, or pay doctors to talk to patients, about healthy lifestyles While the life expectancy of Taiwanese newborns in 2018 reached 80.69 years, the number of years people spent in poor health hit a record high at 8.41 years, Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics showed on Saturday. Healthy life expectancy is calculated by a person’s life expectancy minus the time they spend in ill health, such as the loss of mobility, disabilities and chronic disease, based on medical records and calculations about the years they live with disabilities. The number of years that Taiwanese spend in poor health is increasing slowly, but steadily, rising by 0.46 years, or five-and-a-half months, between 2012
UPTICK IN NUMBERS: The Taipei deputy mayor said the city has services to assist new immigrants, but has established an office specifically to help those from Hong Kong The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office today officially opens, where it is to provide humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, after Beijing yesterday passed a controversial national security law for the territory. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed dismay over China’s passage of the law, saying that Beijing has broken its pledge to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years following its handover from the UK. “I feel extremely disappointed [about the law’s passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong,” Tsai said in Taipei. Beijing’s “broken promise” also
‘BASELESS ACCUSATIONS’: Ker Chien-ming said it was not possible to drop Chen Chu’s nomination, while KMT lawmakers accused their DPP rivals of ‘homicidal behavior’ The Legislative Yuan is to vote on President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) nominations for the Control Yuan on July 17 after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators regained access to the legislative chamber yesterday after it was occupied by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers for about 19 hours. The Legislative Yuan had been scheduled to meet yesterday morning to discuss its planned extraordinary session, but more than 20 KMT lawmakers on Sunday afternoon broke into the main chamber and occupied the legislative speaker’s podium to protest Tsai’s nomination of former Presidential Office secretary-general Chen Chu (陳菊) to be Control Yuan president. The KMT caucus