Russia yesterday warned the situation in Ukraine was spiraling out of control after a second night of violent clashes between pro-EU protesters and security forces in the center of Kiev and urged European governments not to interfere in Ukraine’s political crisis.
The clashes raged in the center of the Ukrainian capital until early yesterday morning, with demonstrators flinging Molotov cocktails and stones at security forces who hit back with stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas.
The situation was tense yesterday, with thousands of protesters still facing down a line of armor-clad security forces blocking access to the Verkhovna Rada parliament.
A deafening din echoed through the devastated Grushevsky Street as protesters banged sticks on metal canisters, but clashes had paused with some demonstrators even walking up to the police line.
The standoff, which has left hundreds wounded, has brought tensions between protesters and the authorities to a new high after two months of rallies over the government’s abandoning of a pact for closer ties with the EU.
A new set of laws, which ban nearly all forms of protest and have enraged demonstrators, were officially published in the newspaper of the parliament after a warning from Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych that the violence threatened the entire country.
They allow for jail terms of up to five years for those who blockade public buildings and the arrest of protesters wearing masks or helmets. Other provisions ban the dissemination of “slander” on the Internet.
Clashes on Sunday and Monday, which followed two months of protests, turned an area in the center of Kiev into a veritable war zone as about 10,000 demonstrators battled security forces.
Fireworks and stun grenades lit up the night sky while the deafening drumming of protesters with sticks on metal echoed through the streets. Demonstrators rigged up a giant catapult behind a barricade of burned out police buses in order to better hurl projectiles at the security forces.
Russia, which has regarded the pro-EU protests in Ukraine with great suspicion, yesterday warned that clashes between the opposition and police in Ukraine were getting out of control.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the fact that calls by Ukraine’s pro-EU opposition leaders to refrain from violence failed to calm tensions in the capital meant that the situation was becoming explosive.
“They show that the situation is getting out of control,” he said.
Lavrov described the violent protests as “scary” and an “absolute violation of all European norms of behavior,” while slamming the EU for its “indecent” support of the protest movement.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay yesterday called the situation in Ukraine “very worrying” and said the government should suspend the new laws.