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Thursday 18 September 2014

Ukraine tensions grow as mob forces governor to quit

Roland Oliphant, Kiev

Published 24/01/2014 | 02:30

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Opposition leader and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko addresses protesters near the burning barricades between police and protesters in central Kiev, Ukraine
Opposition leader and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko addresses protesters near the burning barricades between police and protesters in central Kiev, Ukraine

Ukraine faced an East-West split last night as anti-government protesters seized government buildings in cities in western Ukraine and forced at least one regional governor to resign.

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The country's prime minister has described developments in the west as an attempted coup following an eruption of sieges of regional administrations in cities including Lviv.

Protesters demanding the resignation of regional governors stormed local government buildings in Lviv and Rivne and were reported to have laid siege to offices in Vinnytsya, Khmelnytskiy, and Zhitomir.

Oleg Salo, the governor of the Lviv region, which is widely seen as the heartland of Ukrainian nationalism, was forced to tender his resignation on the steps of the regional administration after an estimated 2,000 people surrounded the building.

Protesters and riot police, who have fought a vicious battles in the capital Kiev, yesterday held to a temporary truce while talks were taking place.

Viktor Yanukovych, the president, met with opposition leaders to end street clashes that have claimed five lives so far, while the EU foreign affairs representative, announced intensification of diplomatic efforts.

Members of Pravy Sektor, the paramilitary alliance of far right groups that has been a key force in the street battles in Kiev, said they would honour the truce as long as negotiations continue.

SIEGE

But while a delicate peace reigned in central Kiev, crowds ranging from hundreds to thousands were reported to have laid siege to government buildings in several cities.

A video posted on YouTube showed Mr Salo handwriting a letter of resignation as a crowd urged him on.

He later tried to recant the resignation. "I signed under duress. I saw a people with no leader and no readiness to negotiate, and I feared for the safety of government employees," he told local news agencies.

In the city of Ivano-Fransk the governor reportedly refused similar demands from a crowd of 500 who forced their way into his office, saying he would only resign by presidential decree. Regional governors are presidential appointees in Ukraine, not locally elected.

The pro-European, anti-government protest movement enjoys considerable support in the west of the country.

The mayor of Lviv issued a clear challenge to the Government, declaring that "no laws that go against common sense or the Ukrainain institution will ever be enacted in Lviv".

Irish Independent

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