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KIEV, February 20. /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs signs order to hand out combat weapons to law enforcement personnel, the ministry's press service reported.
Earlier reports on Thursday said several riot police officers had been captured. Zakharchenko said it had happened "because they were ensuring public order without firearms.”
According to Zakharchenko’s statement, posted on the ministry’s website, the use of arms will be regulated by the law “On police.”
The weapons will be used “to protect nationals from attacks threatening their lives and health, as well as to free hostages; to repel attacks on police officers or their families' members if their lives are in danger; to repel attacks on guarded facilities, convoys, private residential premises, state and public enterprises, institutions and organizations, as well as to recapture them in case of their seizure,” the statement said.
Rioters in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev resumed their armed attacks on law enforcers despite the day of mourning on Thursday announced in the wake of violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police.
A new wave of riots started in Kiev on the morning of February 18 after opposition supporters tried to march to the building of Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, in support of a constitutional reform cutting presidential powers. At least 28 people, including policemen, were reported killed and hundreds wounded in fierce clashes between anti-government protesters and law enforcers.
Protesters were setting car tires on fire near the Oktyabrsky Palace in downtown of Kiev and, according to eye-witnesses from the scene, some of them were also shooting from assault rifles, while officers of the Berkut special task police unit were trying to force them toward the European Square.
According to a statement published on the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s website, a sniper is in the action among the protesters. “Over 20 policemen are reported wounded as of now,” the statement said.
Verkhovna Rada emergency session
Deputy Speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, the national parliament, Ruslan Koshulinsky has opened a session of the parliament.
Information available at the moment suggests that about 195 MPs are have come to the house and the MPs representing the oppositionist factions - UDAR, Batkivshchina (Homeland) and Svoboda (Freedom) - are among them.
The meeting began with a minute’s silence in memory of the Ukrainians who have died in clashes between the police and the “protesters” since Tuesday afternoon. After that an hour-long interval was announced.
Rada sources told reporters the Regions Party had submitted some proposals on the issues that should be considered before the end of the day. Hence the deputies decided to make a pause for working out a coordinated stance on the agenda.
On February 20, an agreement on truce and the start of negotiation process was reached at talks of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich with opposition leaders Arseny Yatsenyuk (Batkivshchina Party), Vitali Klitshko (UDAR Party) and Oleg Tyagnibok (Svoboda Party), the press service of the Ukrainian president reports.
It announced that a meeting of the Ukrainian president with Ukrainian parliament speaker Vladimir Rybak and members of the working group for the crisis settlement had ended with the parties announcing “truce and the start of the negotiation process with an aim to stop bloodshed, stabilize the situation in the state for the sake of civil peace”.
Taking part in the meeting were also the head of the presidential administration, Andrei Klyuyev, his first deputy Andrei Portnov, Acting Justice Minister Yelena Lukash and three opposition leaders.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s security service and anti-terrorist center have made a decision to launch a nation-wide counter-terrorist operation, the Ukrainian Security Service said.
Earlier it was reported that casualties have reached 25 people in the clashes between rioters and law enforcers in Ukraine’s capital. Eight of them died at hospitals, four died at a hospital of the Interior Ministry, 13 dead people were brought to the Kiev forensic expertise bureau.
Nine Ukrainian law enforcers died of gunshot wounds. 371 policemen turned for medical aid in departmental medical institutions, 349 of them were taken to hospital.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Viktor Yanukovich made an address on the official website saying that Ukrainian opposition has crossed the line, when they urged people to take up arms and this is “blatant violation of the law.”
“Proceeding from this, I urge once again opposition leaders, who claim that they are seeking for peaceful settlement, to separate immediately from those radical forces, which provoke bloodshed and clashes with law enforcement agencies. Otherwise, if they do not want to go away, they should admit that they support radically minded forces. And then other talks will be held with them,” the president said.
He also noted that opposition leaders had neglected the main principle of democracy that people come to power only at polling stations, not in streets and squares. “I said many times to them (oppositionists) that election will be held soon. If people place trust in you, you will be in power. If they don’t do it, you won’t be in power. But all this should take place lawfully according to the constitution,” Yanukovich noted.