Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Efforts for peaceful end to Kiev crisis ‘futile’: minister

FORCEFUL STATEMENT:The Ukraine’s interior minister said the use of force is possible as police and protesters continued to clash and the death toll from the crisis rose

AFP, KIEV

Anti-government protesters yesterday gather at a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

Photo: Reuters

A Ukrainian protester who was severely wounded in clashes with riot police has died in hospital, Kiev officials said yesterday, bringing the official death toll from the country’s unrest to three.

“He had severe injuries, underwent several operations, but died in hospital,” a spokeswoman for Kiev’s medical department told reporters.

The nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) Party, identified the victim as Roman Senyk, 45, who was badly injured in his lungs on Wednesday during clashes with police.

A Svoboda spokesperson said he was shot in the chest and, according to the opposition, his death means that six protesters were killed in clashes that started on Sunday last week on Grushevsky Street, on the fringes of the main protest zone.

The authorities have only confirmed a toll of three, which includes the latest fatality, a Ukrainian of Armenian origin and a Belarussian citizen, both of whom died of gunshot wounds, but police insist the latter two were not killed by fire from security forces.

Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Vitaliy Zakharchenko yesterday warned that efforts to solve the deadly crisis without force were “futile,” as protesters and police remained locked in a tense standoff.

The EU urged concrete steps to end the crisis, which risks spiraling into another bloody confrontation if Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych chooses to use force to disperse the well-fortified protest camp established in Kiev two months ago.

Overnight, demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets, foreign correspondents said. The exchanges will raise concerns about the sustainability of the truce brokered by opposition leader Vitali Klitschko that has been in place since early Thursday.

With tensions rising as hundreds poured into the protest zone yesterday, Zakharchenko bluntly warned that the use of force was possible.

“The events of the last days in the Ukrainian capital have shown that our attempts to solve the conflict peacefully, without recourse to a confrontation of force, remain futile,” he said in a statement.

Accusing the mainstream opposition of failing to control radicals, Zakharchenko said the authorities now had information that the protesters were “hoarding firearms” at their headquarters.

However, in a sign of a possible split within the ruling Regions Party over the crisis, Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, said talks could be the only solution.

“There can be only one solution to the political crisis — a peaceful one. Any use of force is unacceptable,” said Akhmetov, a Yanukovych ally and Regions Party bankroller.

Kiev has been buzzing with rumors that Yanukovych plans a state of emergency to put down the protests, although he has assured the EU he has no plan to do so.

Further ratcheting up the tensions, the ministry called on protesters to free two policemen who it said had been captured and held in Kiev City Hall. The opposition has denied the claim, but the ministry demanded the officers’ release, in a clear threat to storm the building if they are not freed.

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