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Kiev subway nearly stopped due to riots in city center

February 18, 2014, 20:06 UTC+3 18
Subway stations are only open for passengers going out to the street. Earlier it was reported that four central stations were closed
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Kiev subway (archive)

Kiev subway (archive)

© ITAR-TASS/Maria Frolova

KIEV, February 18. /ITAR-TASS/. Metro traffic has nearly been stopped due to riots in downtown Kiev, Ukraine’s Unian news agency reported Tuesday.

Subway stations are only open for passengers going out to the street. Earlier it was reported that four central stations were closed.

Svoboda opposition party leader Oleg Tyagnibok told journalists earlier Tuesday that the Ukrainian opposition urged the authorities to “put to parliamentary vote the issue of constitutional reform.”

Tyagnibok explained that MPs should choose whether to return to the 2004 Constitution variant that cut presidential powers. According to him, failure to agree the constitutional reform issue caused a new wave of riots in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday.

“The authorities must meet people’s demands halfway. The situation in society depends solely on their decision,” the opposition leader said.

Ukraine has been hit by anti-government protests since the authorities refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union at a summit in Vilnius in November 2013 and opted for closer ties with Russia instead. The protests have often turned into riots.

The Ukrainian authorities adopted tougher laws for public order violations in mid-January, which triggered another wave of protests, with three protesters believed to have been killed, and up to 200 police injured. The laws were later repealed.

Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov resigned on January 28, and the Ukrainian leadership also decided to pardon participants of riots on the condition protesters vacated state and local power institutions they seized within 15 days. The initial reaction of opposition leaders to the amnesty law that entered into force February 2 was defiant and skeptical.

Meanwhile, Kiev’s police reported Tuesday that the building of the city state administration had been seized again by protesters who threw Molotov cocktails.

Earlier, protesters held the building for over 2.5 months, but vacated it on February 16 to observe the amnesty law adopted by the authorities.

The amnesty law, designed in particular to “prevent prosecution and punishment of people in connection with events that took place during peaceful rallies,” envisions a pardon for all people who took part in riots during mass anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine except for those who committed grave crimes.

It introduced a mechanism to release riot participants from criminal prosecution and ensure unhindered operation of state and local power bodies. Protesters had time until February 17 to vacate seized state and local power institutions, unblock Grushevsky Street in downtown Kiev and other streets and squares across the country except those where peaceful protest rallies were being held.

The head of Ukraine’s Security Service, Alexander Yakimenko, and acting Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko on Tuesday called on opposition leaders “to calm protesters, stop confrontation and return to the negotiating table.”

“We warn irresponsible opposition hotheads: the authorities have the power to ensure order. And we, should riots continue, will have to resort to tough actions,” their joint statement said. Yakimenko and Zakharchenko gave protesters time until 18:00 (16:00 GMT) to stop riots.

“In case the riots do not stop, we will have to ensure order by the means the new law allows for,” the statement said.

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