Violence is flaring up again in Ukraine, but this time it is in the capital city of Kiev. According to the Interior Ministry, one national guard member has been killed and over 100 people have been injured in violent protests outside the parliament building in Kiev.
Several sources have reported that violent clashes between nationalists and riot police broke out after the Ukrainian parliament gave initial backing to reforms allowing greater autonomy in rebel-held eastern Ukraine. Political analysts note that the reforms are part of the Minsk plan to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Police claim that several live grenades or other explosive devices were thrown at officers protecting parliament, resulting in most of the injuries.
Of note, the decentralization reform package must be voted on again in a second reading, and analysts say final passage is likely to be a difficult challenge for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
More on recent Ukraine clashes in Kiev
According to local media sources, maybe a hundred or so protesters including the populist Radical Party and the nationalist Svoboda party, who fiercely resist any compromise with the Russian-backed separatists) began to demonstrate outside parliament early on Monday.
After a few hours of rancorous debate, 265 members of parliament out of 450 voted for the first reading of the decentralization bill that gives additional powers to rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east.
The Ukraine clashes were minor at first, but a BBC correspondent reported he heard several small explosions and then a louder one thought to come from a grenade.
The crowd was not that large and just a couple of dozen masked youths started the fights with police, but the crowd soon became involved against the police.
The protesters pulled a number of policemen out of their lines. The crowd beat the officers and and took their shields and helmets. The BBC reports that a dozen “young men were almost as well-equipped as the police.”
The clashes were sporadic for a few minutes, breaking up into smaller groups, then the explosions started.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov claimed that over 30 people have been arrested, including a Svoboda member who has apparently confessed to throwing a live grenade at the police and national guard.
Interfax Ukraine reported that a handful of journalists at the scene were injured.
So far the toll from the Ukraine clashes is 122 people injured, with at least 11 in critical condition.
Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko commented that the Kiev violence was “a stab in the back”. He went on to say: “It was an anti-Ukrainian act for which all of its organisers without exception — all representatives of political forces — should be severely punished.”
Recent fighting in Donetsk and Mariupol areas
As noted by ValueWalk a couple of weeks ago, both Russia and Ukraine have pointed the finger at each other for the recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine near Donetsk and Mariupol. Of note, the flare up in fighting occurred just as Russian President Vladimir Putin was visiting Crimea.
Ukrainian President Poroshenko argued Putin was trying to boost tensions in the area by visiting Crimea. The Kremlin said that that Putin was simply visiting to help promote tourism during prime season.