UK & World News

  • 20 January 2014, 8:25

Ukraine: Stun Grenades Used In Kiev Clashes

Protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev have escalated into street battles with riot police.

Opposition leader and former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko has announced he will meet President Viktor Yanukovich to try to resolve the continuing political crisis and ease the unrest.

It came after protesters attacked riot police with stun grenades, sticks and fire extinguishers. Vehicles were also set on fire.

The interior ministry said 30 officers had been injured, with more than 10 taken to hospital. Four are reported to be in a serious condition.

The violence flared as up to 100,000 people massed in defiance of new powers aimed at cracking down on anti-government demonstrations.

Mr Klitschko tried to stop hardcore activists, many wearing hard hats and gas masks, from attacking police, but was then targeted himself and sprayed down with a powder fire extinguisher.

Protesters continued to hurl fireworks and other missiles at officers, who were forced to protect themselves with shields.

As trouble continued into the night, police used water cannon against demonstrators.

The violence marks a sharp escalation in what had been largely peaceful protests, triggered after Mr Yanukovych ditched a deal for closer links with the European Union in favour of stronger ties with Russia.

But anger has mounted since the president then gave the go-ahead to a number of laws curbing Ukrainians' rights to protest and free speech.

Critics say the legislation rushed through parliament is unconstitutional and will lead to a police state.

The laws - denounced by the United States and other Western governments as anti-democratic - would ban any unauthorised stages or use of loudspeakers in public places.

They also bar, under the threat of heavy prison sentences, the taking part in "mass disorder" and the wearing of face masks or hard hats.

In a gesture of disobedience to the helmet ban, protesters on Sunday wore saucepans and colanders on their heads,

Mr Klitschko, the strongest potential presidential challenger, said: "Yanukovich and his henchmen want to steal our country.

"Ukraine is united as never before in its struggle against those in power today in its determination not to allow a dictatorship."

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