Supporters of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader, former PM Yulia Tymoshenko have clashed with police in the centre of Kiev. The unrest has come as the country is celebrating its 20th anniversary of independence from the USSR.
Police cordoned off the central Kreshchatik Street while a march by Tymoshenko supporters was in progress. However, several protesters managed to break through the cordon and began throwing stones and bottles at law enforcers, reported RIA Novosti.
According to the press-service of Tymoshenko’s “Batkivshchina” (Fatherland) party, the police used tear-gas to restore order. Police, however, denied the accusations, saying that they “only protected themselves with shields,” the chief department of the Interior Ministry in Kiev told Interfax.
On Tuesday, Kiev’s district court banned any mass actions on Independence Day, except for the celebratory events which had been organized by the city authorities.Despite the ban, opposition activists attempted to use the occasion to voice their discontent with the current leadership and protest against the trial of Tymoshenko, who has been charged with allegedly abusing her office in 2009. She was arrested on August 5 and may face up to 10 years behind bars if found guilty.
About 500 Batkivshchina party supporters gathered on Kiev’s central Independence Square, waving flags and a banner demanding the president’s impeachment.
Earlier on Wednesday, a crowd of protesters attempted to march to the presidential administration building, but were stopped by a riot police cordon.
In light of the fact that it was a holiday, the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition called on the protesters to stop clashing with police.
First deputy head of the Batkivshchina Party, Aleksandr Turchinov noted that the number of protesters is just enough to sweep the police away. But “we cannot gratify them with a fight in the center of Kiev”, cited RIA Novosti. It is assumed that he meant to say that a scuffle with the opposition on such a significant day would be scandalous and ultimately benefit the government.
Meanwhile, the majority of Kievan citizens are peacefully celebrating Independence Day and enjoying the otherwise festive atmosphere in the city, which by and large was not spoiled by the incident with the opposition supporters.