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Situation in front of Crimea parliament calms down after clashes

February 26, 2014, 19:37 UTC+3 SIMFEROPOL
Protesters were trying to break into the parliament building to prevent a planned extraordinary meeting to discuss the political situation in Ukraine
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© ITAR-TASS/Alexei Pavlishak

SIMFEROPOL, February 26. /ITAR-TASS/. The situation in front of the parliament of the autonomous Ukrainian republic of Crimea, the Supreme Council, in the city of Simferopol, has quieted down following clashes between participants of two rallies in front of the parliament building, an Itar-Tass correspondent reported from the scene Wednesday.

A group of protesters was trying to break into the building of the parliament, which planned to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the political situation in Ukraine, whose president has been ousted following violent protests. However, the extraordinary meeting failed to take place because there was no quorum in the hall. Instead, a meeting of the presidium of the Crimean Supreme Council opened to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

About 7,000 people gathered in front of the building on Wednesday morning. Two rallies were underway. The participants of one rally were chanting “Crimea is not Russia,” “Ukraine, Ukraine.” There were many representatives of the Crimean Tatar people among them; the other rally’s participants were shouting: “Russia, Russia.”

Athletic-looking young people holding Ukrainian flags began pushing others and then started throwing sticks and stones at opponents. The apparently anti-Russian rally’s participants then burned a red flag and started burning pro-Russian posters.

An explosion occurred near the parliament building. It was unclear what exploded. The parliament’s press service told an Itar-Tass correspondent after the blast that the situation was “uneasy.”

Crimea Supreme Council speaker Vladimir Konstantinov delivered a statement in which he denied media claims that the extraordinary session of parliament that had been due today was expected to “make radical decisions”, up to Crimea’s secession from Ukraine.

“The Crimean parliament does not raise the issue of secession from Ukraine,” Konstantinov said. “It’s a provocation aimed at discrediting the autonomy’s Supreme Council and depriving it of its legitimacy.” He called on Crimean residents to “stay calm.”

After reports that the extraordinary session was put off, the leader of the Crimean Tatars’ Mejlis (national assembly), Rifat Chubarov, declared “Crimea’s victory” and called on his supporters to leave the scene. It was not clear what “victory” exactly he was speaking of. A representative of the Russian community who spoke after him said “mosques, churches and synagogues” should be protected by joint efforts.

Crimea’s Health Ministry said one person died, apparently of a heart attack, and seven felt bad and asked medics for help during the rallies in front of Crimea’s parliament.

Anti-government protests that have sometimes turned violent have been underway in Ukraine since November 2013. A new wave of riots started February 18 and eventually caused President Viktor Yanukovich, 63, to flee his residence outside Kiev. The Verkhovna Rada, the country’s unicameral parliament, took over and appointed its new speaker, Alexander Turchinov, as interim head of state and set early presidential elections for May 25.

Yanukovich has called the developments “a coup.” His current whereabouts are unknown, but acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Monday that the ousted leader had been in Crimea in southern Ukraine on Sunday accompanied by a few security guards.

The Rada has also restored the 2004 Constitution that gave broader powers to parliament and canceled the law on the fundamentals of the state language policy, which gave Russian the status of a regional language in 13 out of 27 Ukrainian regions, including Crimea, where Russians and Ukrainians constitute the majority of about 85 percent, and Crimean Tatars account for about 15 percent.

A total of 82 people have been killed and 787 have turned to the Ukrainian capital’s medical institutions for help, with 527 of them hospitalized, since the start of the latest violence on February 18, according to the latest data from the Ukrainian Health Ministry.

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