The U.S. accused the government of Ukraine of escalating violence in Kiev, where intense clashes between protesters and riot police took place on Sunday. The riots on January 19 became the largest during two months of the so-called Euromaidan.
Thousands of protesters tried to break through police cordons to government and parliament buildings; a "provocative" attack on Berkut riot police officers was committed. In response, the police was forced to use tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades. About 100 people were hospitalized with gas poisoning. Many police officers suffered injuries too; about 40 of them were hospitalized, one was taken hostage. The latter was released and sent to hospital as well. A criminal case, entailing a punishment of up to 15 years, was filed into the fact of the riots.
"We are deeply concerned by the violence taking place today on the streets of Kyiv and urge all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation. The increasing tension in Ukraine is a direct consequence of the government failing to acknowledge the legitimate grievances of its people. Instead, it has moved to weaken the foundations of Ukraine's democracy by criminalizing peaceful protest and stripping civil society and political opponents of key democratic protections under the law. We urge the Government of Ukraine to take steps that represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including repeal of the anti-democratic legislation signed into law in recent days, withdrawing the riot police from downtown Kyiv, and beginning a dialogue with the political opposition," NSC spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said.
"From its first days, the Maidan movement has been defined by a spirit of non-violence and we support today's call by opposition political leaders to reestablish that principle. The U.S. will continue to consider additional steps - including sanctions - in response to the use of violence," she added.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who had had a meeting with UDAR Party chairman, Vitali Klitschko, expressed willingness to engage in a dialogue with the opposition. According to Klitschko, Yanukovych promised to set up a commission of representatives of his administration, cabinet of ministers and opposition leaders to find a solution to the crisis in the country.
Klitschko announced earlier on Sunday that the opposition considered illegal the laws adopted by the majority in the Parliament and signed by the President. The "no-laws," as he said, included the one that toughened the rules for holding rallies. Klitschko demanded early parliamentary and presidential elections. The officials, who execute these laws, should be removed from power, the leader of Freedom Party, Oleg Tyagnibok said.
For the time being, events in the country show that the political crisis has been exacerbating, observers say. Meanwhile, spokespeople for the Party of Regions believe that the opposition has lost control over the protests, and the authorities may now resort to drastic measures to restore law order in the country.
Large clashes between the opposition and the police sparked yesterday, on January 19, in Kiev. Over 100 people were injured in the clashes. Many were hospitalized with head injuries, bruises, fractures and poisoning from toxic substances, according to Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
It was also said that the protesters destroyed about six police vehicles: 4 buses, a truck and a water jet.
The police detained about 10 most active participants of the clashes.
The conflict with the police began on Grushevsky Streets on January 19. Most aggressive individuals started throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at law enforcers and set fire to several police vehicles. Policemen used water cannons, gas grenades and rubber bullets against demonstrators.
The so-called Euromaidan started in Kiev on November 21, 2013. The protest actions began after President Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the EU.