February 18, 2014
Ukrainian rioters are reigniting street clashes with police in the capital Kiev, with opposition MPs attempting to paralyze the work of the parliament. Protesters are stoning police, with law enforcement responding with tear gas and stun grenades.
Hundreds of rioters have started an assault on police in several places in central Kiev. They are breaking up pavement stones to throw at police along with crackers and smoke grenades.
Police are using rubber bullets against the rioters. Insurgents have captured several trucks blocking the way to the capital’s center, and set one of them on fire. At least eight law enforcement officers have reportedly been injured, two of them got limbs broken. Reportedly one protester lost a hand when shock grenade exploded.
A Molotov cocktail was thrown at the central office of the ruling Party of Regions in central Kiev, and a fire started inside the building.
After setting the entrance of the office of the Party of regions on fire, the rioters broke in and ordered the staff out. About 20 women left the building through the burning front door, while some technical staff remained inside. The rioters burnt a car in the inner yard of the office building and attacked two cars that were leaving the scene.
Radical far-right extremists taking an active part in the clashes are chanting “Fascists!” to police.
Officers of the Berkut special police force remain deployed close to the parliament building. Police are using loudspeakers, calling on the rioters to cease the violence. Reportedly several reporters, who happened to be in the thick of events, have suffered the effects of tear gas.
The protesters have again set tires on fire on several streets leading to the Ukrainian parliament, and claim they are ready to storm the parliament building where MPs are debating a constitutional reform.
Inside the parliament about 50 MPs from opposition parties are blocking the the presidium and rostrum because the parliament’s secretariat refuses to register a draft law brought in by the opposition, claims ‘Fatherland’ party head, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The opposition is demanding a return to the 2004 Constitution, which would make Ukraine a parliamentary, not presidential, republic. The ruling party insists that the opposition’s calls for constitutional change violate the Ukrainian Constitution per se.
“A draft law cannot be registered if it violates the Constitution and parliamentary rules,” said Party of Regions’ MP, Yury Miroshnichenko, stressing that the opposition’s draft resolution is a call for constitutional change, which is in fact illegal. The ruling party suggests discussing changes to the current constitution in accordance with due process.
The opposition hopes to push in a resolution, stating that a 2004 decision of the Constitutional Court that the country returns to the 1996 Constitution has never been legally fixed, so Ukraine de-facto lives under the 2004 Constitution. A decade ago that decision helped the Ukrainian authorities to overcome political crisis in the country following a presidential election. As a result, then-president-elect Viktor Yanukovich agreed to a second term, which he lost to his opponent, Viktor Yuschenko.