Saturday 10 December 2016

Policeman shot dead and grenade thrown in clash over Ukraine vote

Kiev politicians give support for autonomy in the east

Roland Oliphant in Moscow

Published 01/09/2015 | 02:30

An injured national guard officer is carried away by comrades outside the parliament building in Kiev, Ukraine, August 31, 2015. Nearly 90 people were wounded and several of them were in a serious condition yesterday.
An injured national guard officer is carried away by comrades outside the parliament building in Kiev, Ukraine, August 31, 2015. Nearly 90 people were wounded and several of them were in a serious condition yesterday.

Deadly clashes broke out between police and nationalist protesters in Kiev after politicians gave their support for greater autonomy in the separatist regions in the east.

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At least one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and more than 100 people injured after grenades and firearms were used in some of the worst violence in the Ukrainian capital since the revolution that overthrew of Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

The 25-year-old officer, named as Igor Derbin, from the Kherson region, died after being shot in the heart, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said in a statement on Facebook.

Clashes with riot police saw both sides using batons, tear gas and smoke bombs before a live hand grenade was thrown into a crowd gathered outside the parliament building in Kiev. Thirty people were arrested.

Earlier in the day, the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, passed the first reading of constitutional amendments that would decentralise some powers to regional governments.

The vote passed by 39 votes, with 265 MPs of the 450-seat chamber backing the changes in a fraught session of parliament yesterday. The changes are required under the February Minsk peace agreement, a road map to ending the 16-month old war with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

The decentralisation plan is backed by Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, who is under intense pressure from Western governments to find a political solution to the war that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives.

Supporters say the changes will allow Kiev to put pressure on the separatists and Russian president Vladimir Putin to fulfil their part of the agreement, including allowing elections to be held under Ukrainian law and eventually handing back control of the border to Ukrainian forces.

But the move has been denounced by nationalist and some MPs and protesters as tantamount to surrender and legalisation of the occupation of large swathes of eastern territory.

The violence began after protesters including members of the far-Right militia Pravy Sektor and the nationalist political party Svoboda gathered outside parliament and stopped traffic in the street.

Explosion

A video filmed from inside the parliament building showed an object flying over the heads of the police cordon before an explosion that sent apparently wounded officers scattering in several directions.

Arsen Avakov, the country's interior minister, said that 30 people including the grenade thrower had been arrested.

"Ninety people have been injured and one national guardsman killed by a bullet wound to the heart," he said in a statement on Facebook.

"This is the result of several explosive devices being thrown from the side of people in Svoboda party T-shirts."

The grenade thrower, he wrote, was found to be carrying several other devices including a Soviet-designed F1 fragmentation grenade.

Vitaly Klitschko, the mayor of Kiev, called the perpetrators "scum".

"The murderous provocation at parliament must be met with legal response and consequences," he wrote on Facebook. "The public should know who the perpetrators and organisers of this terrorist act are and what punishment they will get."

The amendments will have to pass a much tougher second and third reading before being adopted.

Separatist leaders have already said that the law does not go far enough to fulfil their reading of the Minsk peace agreement, however.

While the changes grant new powers to all regional governments, it does not specifically grant "special status" to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions where the separatists hold territory. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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