Ukrainian PM Threatens Force Against Opposition Protesters
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov says government security forces will use force against antigovernment protesters in Kyiv if “provocateurs” do not stop their activities.
Speaking to the Russian television station Rossia 24, Azarov blamed clashes between protesters and riot police in central Kyiv since January 19 on opposition leaders.
“The responsibility, first and foremost lies, with those leaders of opposition parties who created this situation,” Azarov said.
“In the course of the next several days they must make themselves very clear — if they support those goons, those extremists, those provocateurs, then they have to say that they stand with them. If they do not support them, then they must — together with the government — remove those provocateurs from the streets of the capital.”
Azarov denied that his government is planning to declare a state of emergency to deal with Ukraine’s crisis, saying that existing legislation gives security forces the authority to use force:
“Should provocateurs fail to stop, the government will have no other choice but to use the force it has the authority to use according to the law in order to protect our people from this kind of scenario,” Azarov said.
Legislation passed on January 16 by Ukraine’s parliament, and which came into effect early on January 22, significantly increase fines and imposes jail terms for Ukrainians found guilty of unauthorized street protests.
Azarov described that legislation as “an exact copy of current European legislation.”
But the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, says the package of measures fall short of international human rights standards.
Pillay on January 21 called for Ukrainian authorities to suspend the implementation of the new laws – saying she was “particularly concerned by the potential that these laws have to curtail the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the right to information, [and] the right of civil society to work freely.”
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has called for dialogue with opposition leaders and compromise.
But opposition leader Vitaliy Klitschko says he was snubbed when he tried to meet with Yanukovych on January 21 and was only allowed to speak with Yanukovych’s aides.
Andriy Klyuev, the chairman of Ukrainian National Council of Security and Defense, criticized Klitschko for leaving those talks:
“Unfortunately, a constructive conversation did not take place,” Klyuev said.
“Vitaliy Klitschko, as I understand, left after that meeting to start declaring that he is quitting the negotiation process,” Klyuev continued. “This is wrong. This is unreasonable. Politicians that have any consideration for the future of Ukraine are obliged to sit down and negotiate.”
In Moscow on January 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the situation in Ukraine is spiraling “out of control” and accused Ukraine’s opposition of aggravating social tensions in Kyiv.
Lavrov also accused the European Union of encouraging protests with “distasteful” meddling.
The Russian foreign minister alluded to visits with protesters at Kyiv’s Independence Square by European officials like EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The violent clashes in Kyiv since January 19 have left hundreds of people injured and police vehicles destroyed.
Angry protesters have been hurling Molotov cocktails while police have used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas.
The protests stem from Yanukovych’s decision in November to reject an EU free trade deal in favor of closer economic ties with Russia – a move that won Yanukovych a $15 billion aid package from Moscow.
Based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service; with additional reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Rossia 24.
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.