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Ukraine’s top leadership was unaware of police plans to disperse rally - PM

December 02, 2013, 22:29 UTC+3 KIEV
On November 30, Berkut anti-riot police forcefully dispersed a pro-EU demonstration in Kiev
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KIEV, December 02, 22:25 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said President Viktor Yanukovich and he had not known about police plans to disperse protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square on November 30.

“I am telling you absolutely frankly: neither the president nor the prime minister knew of that operation,” Azarov said at a meeting with the EU, U.S. and Canadian ambassadors on Monday, December 2.

“I have a list of those injured. I can share it with you. You will see that there are no children among them,” the prime minister said, adding that “12 people were taken to hospitals. One of them is still in hospital.”

On November 30, Berkut anti-riot police forcefully dispersed a pro-EU demonstration in Kiev. Most of the demonstrators were students.

Reports said that on the following morning at least 35 people requested medical attention. Kiev’s emergency aid station Head Anatoly Vershigora said seven people had received medical attention and left but 21 had to be taken to hospitals.

Ambulances were called nine times to Kiev’s Shevchenkovsky district police station, where the protesters had been brought from the square, seven people were taken to hospitals and two checked in for medical treatment.

The spokesperson for the Interior Ministry’s Department for Kiev, Olga Bilyk, said all complaints from people who had received bodily injuries would be studied.

“All complaints will be thoroughly studied and an investigation will be conducted,” she said, adding that police were questioning those who had been taken to hospitals with injuries after the police action.

Bilyak told Channel 5 earlier that the police had to act after the protesters had refused to let city services to prepare the square for New Year holidays. Instead the protesters “started throwing cans, burning sticks and other objects at them. It was decided then to use the Berkut special unit that stopped the disorders using special means,” she said.

The Interior Ministry said later that the Berkut members acted forcefully after the protesters had put up resistance to police and started throwing litter, glasses, bottles of water and burning sticks at them. As a result, 35 people were detained. After administrative protocols had been executed, they were let go.

The police action was condemned by many countries and organisations, including the United States and Poland.

Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy on last night's events in Ukraine Stefan Fule also strongly condemned what they called “the excessive use of force last night by the police” in Kiev to disperse peaceful protesters, who were expressing, “in a strong and unprecedented manner,” their support for Ukraine's political association and economic integration with the EU.

“This support had been welcomed yesterday by the participants of the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit. The unjustified use of force goes against the principles to which all participants of the Vilnius Summit, including the President of Ukraine, yesterday reaffirmed their adherence,” Ashton and Fule said in a joint statement.

They called on Ukraine, also in its capacity as Chairmanship in Office of the OSCE, hosting its Ministerial Conference on December 5-6 in Kiev, “to fully abide by its international commitments to respect the freedom of expression and assembly.”

They also urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and the Ukrainian authorities “to carry out investigations into the events last night and to hold responsible those who acted against the basic principles of freedom of assembly and of expression.”

In reply, Azarov’s spokesperson Vitaly Lukyanenko said the government was not interested in provoking an escalation of tensions and remains committed to stability in the country.

“One thing is clear: the authorities are not interested in provocations. On the contrary, they are interested in stability and calm in the country,” he told the news agency UNIAN.

“The position of the prime minister is that it is necessary to conduct a thorough and objective investigation within the shortest time possible. A special task group has been set up for this purpose. It will conduct such an investigation, no matter what,” he said.

“The prime minister has stressed once again that those who express their protest peacefully and legally are not opponents, they are our citizens whose rights must be protected,” the spokesperson said. “By supporting European integration, they support the course the president and the government have steered and will steer.

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