Ukraine's opposition demands sanctions after fresh violence
US Senate to hold hearings on Ukraine crisis on Wednesday
Pro-European supporters attend a rally in Independence Square in Kiev yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Sergey Dolzhenko
Ukraine’s pro-EU opposition has called on the West to impose sanctions against key security officials loyal to President Viktor Yanukovich, after fresh clashes between protesters and riot police.
Seventeen protesters were hurt on Friday night when riot police used tear gas and batons to disperse people rallying outside a Kiev courthouse, where three activists had been sentenced to six years in jail for planning to destroy a statue of Vladimir Lenin in 2011.
The police force said 17 of its own men were hurt by protesters who allegedly attacked their vehicles with rocks and sticks.
Former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko was the most badly injured, after receiving what his wife said were at least 10 blows to the head from a police truncheon.
Video footage showed him having his bleeding head bandaged at the protest before being taken to hospital, where he was briefly put in intensive care.
Opposition leaders said the clashes showed Mr Yanukovich and his allies were not willing to negotiate a peaceful solution to Ukraine’s crisis, and urged the US and EU to put a visa ban on security officials and freeze their assets in western bank accounts.
Attacks on protesters
Scores of protesters and journalists were injured on November 30th and December 1st, when riot police stormed a protest camp and scattered demonstrators in Kiev.
Several activists and reporters in Kiev and other cities claim to have been attacked and harassed since then. Media reports cite unnamed US officials saying the state department has created a draft list of up to 20 Ukrainian officials who could be banned from entering the United States if security forces use more violence against protesters.
The US senate’s committee on foreign relations is due to hold a hearing about events in Ukraine on Wednesday.
“We have a key request for our western partners – the time has come for action, the time for words is over,” opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told tens of thousands of protesters on Kiev’s Independence Square yesterday.
“The first who should be on the West’s sanctions list is interior minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, and the entire gang who gave the order to beat people.”
The protests erupted in late November, when Mr Yanukovich postponed a historic deal with the EU that would have tilted Ukraine away from Russia.