Ukraine ex-minister hurt in clashes
Saturday, 11 January 2014 11:05

The clashes broke out after three activists were jailed over an alleged terror plot, as David Stern reports from Kiev

Several people have been injured in clashes between protesters and riot police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Former interior minister and leading opposition figure Yuriy Lutsenko was among those wounded.

The violence broke out after three activists were earlier jailed over an alleged terror plot.

The unrest took place amid ongoing anti-government rallies against the government's decision to pull out of a landmark deal with the European Union.

Instead, President Viktor Yanukovych struck a deal with Russia in December, which has seen big cuts in the price of gas imports from Russia.

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Although Ukraine's pro-EU protests have become considerably smaller, a stalemate persists between demonstrators and the government, as neither side is willing to compromise or has been able to achieve its goals.

Officials would like to see the protest camps cleared from Kiev's main Independence Square, but are unable to act, since any heavy-handed action only brings more people out on the streets.

The demonstrators for their part have been unable to force President Viktor Yanukovych's government to meet any of their main demands, which include early presidential and parliamentary elections.

But despite the reduced crowds, tension and a risk of violence hangs in the air every time protesters and riot police face off - a situation that the political impasse only exacerbates. Friday's clashes underscored this point - and reminded observers as well that even worse violence could erupt in the future.

Moscow also supported Ukraine's finances with a $15bn purchase of government bonds.

The BBC's David Stern, in Kiev, says that while the ongoing protests have produced the largest demonstrations since the 2004 Orange Revolution, so far none of the protesters' main demands have been met.

Lenin statue 'targeted'

The overnight clashes occurred outside a courthouse in Kiev, where a large crowd had gathered for the verdict in a trial against members of a far-right organisation.

Following the judgment, angry demonstrators blocked buses carrying police officers.

The situation escalated after protesters threw paint on the windscreens and started rocking the vehicles,

Local news reports showed footage of badly beaten protestors, including Mr Lutsenko, 49, who was reportedly hit on the head.

Mr Lutsenko was a prominent member of jailed former PM Yulia Tymoshenko's pro-Western government.

He himself was jailed for embezzlement and abuse of office in 2010, but pardoned under EU pressure in April 2013.

Ukraine ex-minister hurt in clashesA large crowd had gathered near the courthouse in Kiev where the trial took place
Ukraine ex-minister hurt in clashesRiot police reportedly detained several protesters during the violence
Ukraine ex-minister hurt in clashesThe altercations took place against the backdrop of ongoing anti-government protests
Protest camp in central KievProtesters have been camped out in central Kiev - several miles from the latest clashes - for weeks

Mr Lutsenko's wife Irina said her husband had suffered concussion after being attacked by baton-wielding police as he tried to break up the violence and had been placed "in intensive care".

The three ultra-nationalists were handed six-year prison sentences on Friday for allegedly plotting to blow up a statue of the revolutionary Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in 2011.

The far-right has played an active role in the pro-EU movement, which they see as a counterbalance to Russian influence in Ukraine, our correspondent says.

The latest scuffles underscore the continuing tension between the demonstrators and President Yanukovych, our correspondent adds.

Protesters have been camped out in Kiev's Independence Square since the opposition campaign began two months ago.

There have been occasional outbreaks of violence as police tried unsuccessfully to clear the square using tear gas.

The last major opposition protest at the end of December was given further impetus by an attack on activist and journalist Tetyana Chornovol, who was severely beaten up on Christmas Day.

She had accused Mr Yanukovych of corruption over his financing of his official residence outside Kiev.

Mr Yanukovych denied any allegation of corruption and called for an investigation into the attack on Ms Chornovol.

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