Ukrainian police sought to round up those it claims organized disturbances as anti-government protesters held out in freezing weather for a 15th day. The opposition was accused of obstructing talks to end the impasse.
Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who refuses to resign after a violent crackdown by riot police last weekend left more than 400 people injured in the capital Kiev, said 14 suspects had been identified. Two were detained yesterday, according to prosecutors, while Channel 5 reported that 14 people remain missing following a Nov. 30 crackdown.
The violence intensified demonstrations that began after President Viktor Yanukovych chose closer relations with Russia over a pact to cement ties with the European Union. After a second day of talks yesterday, the opposition demanded snap presidential and parliamentary elections, punishment for police involved in the violence and the signing of the EU accord.
“The opposition has used the protests for their own political aims and don’t want a constructive dialog,” First Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov said yesterday in a statement. After suggesting Dec. 4 that officials were prepared to discuss early elections, Arbuzov yesterday said he “saw no reason” for them.
The yield on Ukrainian dollar-denominated bonds due 2023 snapped a seven-day advance yesterday and were little changed at 10.365 percent as of 3:11 p.m. in Kiev. The hryvnia was unchanged at 8.215 per dollar after dropping Dec. 4 to the lowest since Nov. 2009.
Protests continued for a second day at the prosecutor general’s office in central Kiev, with demonstrators demanding the release of nine people who were detained on Dec. 1 after clashes. People are also still picketing the government building and the presidential administration’s headquarters.
Opposition lawmakers also blocked the speaker’s rostrum for a third day. The EU’s ambassador to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, went to parliament to speak to both sides.
Two workers from a Kiev-based non-government organization that fights corruption among traffic police were detained yesterday for provoking violence against law enforcement officers on Dec. 1, the group said on its website.
The two men say they were filming protesters and didn’t break the law. A court ruling on their case is due today.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who after surviving a Dec. 3 no-confidence vote vowed to purge his cabinet of those who made “mistakes,” yesterday reiterated his willingness to speak to the opposition. Even so, he said the protesters’ ranks contain “extremists” and accused demonstrators of deploying “non-European tactics” such as “illegal” blockades of official buildings, Interfax reported.
Protests continued today on Independence Square, the focal point of the 2004 Orange Revolution, as early-morning snowfall coated the capital’s streets and the temperature hovered at freezing.
Demonstrators started the day with prayers from the stage, while some kept warm by playing soccer on the Khreshchatyk thoroughfare. As of 11 a.m. in Kiev, the crowds grew to more than 7,000 people spread across the square and the areas around parliament, the government building, the presidential administration and the prosecutor general’s office, the Interior Ministry said on its website.
There were no reports of clashes.
The party of jailed ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko yesterday called on protesters to gather in Kiev at noon on Dec. 8, according to a statement on its website.
In an online statement from a prison hospital, Tymoshenko condemned “arresting innocent, peaceful Ukrainian patriots who were beaten by police at a time when Ukraine and the entire democratic world are waiting for those who’re to blame for the violence to be punished.” Yanukovych will “arrest those who’re in his path to absolute power.”
Nine protesters were ordered to be held in custody for two months on Dec. 3. Supporters yesterday picketed the general prosecutor’s office and the Kiev court building where the hearings took place. The opposition, which says those detained were beaten, has hired lawyers to appeal the decisions.
“The authorities are trying to scare protesters by detaining those boys,” heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko told crowds Dec. 4 on Independence Square.
Klitschko met German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle that day and showed him the square, according to the website of Klitschko’s party, UDAR, which means “punch.” The boxer said he wants the “political crisis” to be resolved peacefully.
Westerwelle is in Kiev for a two-day meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ranko Krivokapic, head of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly, told reporters that “dialog could produce results.”
As well as Westerwelle, officials including Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski are attending the OSCE meeting. The U.S. is being represented by Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.
“How, for example, would our German partners feel if Russia’s foreign minister went to some kind of gathering that took place in contravention of German rules,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in a television interview. “I don’t think they’d consider it a friendly step, a right step. Meet -- yes, but to take part in such events, i’m sorry but there’s a very simple name for that -- interference in internal affairs.”
Opposition leaders plan to appeal to organizations including the United Nations, the European Council, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch over the violence. At the main square, a poster carried a photo of 16-year-old Marina, who’s been missing since the Nov. 30 rally.
Ukraine, an essential energy transit route between Russia and the EU, is seeking financial aid as its economy struggles to exit a third recession since 2008 and its foreign reserves languish at the lowest level in seven years.
Yanukovych, in Beijing to drum up business, said yesterday on his website that Ukraine will get $8 billion in Chinese investment to start projects in industries such as agriculture, shipbuilding and energy.
On his return trip, Yanukovych will visit Sochi, Russia, the site of the next Winter Olympics, Unian newswire reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter. He also canceled a trip to Malta to focus on “domestic political issues,” he said on his website.
Ukraine and China didn’t agree on loans, RIA Novosti news service cited the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying. Investments won’t do much to improve Ukraine’s predicament, according to Tim Ash, chief emerging-markets economist at Standard Bank Group in London.
“I don’t see this making any meaningful impact on the domestic political situation in Ukraine, or the near-term threats to the Ukrainian economy,” he said by e-mail. “These are likely long term investment commitments. Ukraine needs short term cash/financing.”
As well as the China push, Deputy Premier Yuriy Boyko traveled to Moscow Dec. 4 for talks on economic cooperation. The EU and Ukraine are preparing for dialog on association and free-trade accords that Yanukovych snubbed last week at a summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Interfax said.
While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pulled out of the OSCE meeting after Ukraine rejected the EU pact, he said Dec. 4 during a visit to neighboring Moldova that Ukrainians “deserve the opportunity” to choose their own future.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and U.K. Foreign Office Minister David Lidington visited Independence Square yesterday evening, according to their Twitter Inc. pages.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was at the square after midnight today, said it’s vital to resolve the situation when Yanukovych returns from China.
“There’s a mutual understanding that this could end up really bad,” Bildt told Swedish SVT. “There are those on the government side that can actively take to violence.”