Protests flare up in central Ukraine, calls for regional council to resign

Protests flare up in central Ukraine, calls for regional council to resign
About 5,000 people in the central Ukrainian region of Vinnitsa took to the streets to demand the resignation of the regional council. Protesters want an investigation into recent clashes, which residents called a provocation.

On Monday protesters occupied the central square and blocked near-by roads in the city of Vinnitsa, the hometown of the Ukrainian president. The activists held banners, saying: “Gather for the sake of peace!” and “Street fighting in Vinnitsa is provocation by traitors.”

The rally participants called for the Ukrainian authorities, including President Petro Poroshenko and PM Arseny Yatsenyuk, to investigate the clashes that occurred in the city December 6-7.

“Due to the total incapability of the regional council to work and fulfill their duties towards voters, [we] demand the dissolution of the regional council of Vinnitsa,”their statement said.

On Saturday about 400 activists stormed the building of the regional council and called for the resignation of Governor Anatoly Oleynik. Oleynik started serving under ousted Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich in 2010.At least eight police officers were injured during the clashes with the protesters.

The next day, December 7, about 200 activists again demanded the resignation of Oleynik. The crowd chose Aleksey Furman from the nationalist Svoboda party as the people's governor of the region.

READ MORE:Dozens hurt and arrested after Ukrainian nationalists attack parliament (VIDEO)

On Monday, Oleynik held a press conference and said that he is ready to resign only if the situation in the region is stable.

“I bow in front of all Maidan activists and I am ready for everything, even to resign next day,” he said, adding that he will only pass on a stable region to his successor.

In the meantime, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament called the events in Vinnitsa merely a provocation.

“Violent confrontation in Vinnitsa with smoke bombs was a typical provocation, staged by certain circles which don’t have any support from the people [of Vinnitsa],” he said, adding that the people should respect local authorities.

On Monday, the controversial Aidar battalion arrived in the city which has a population of some 350,000 people. The battalion has been slammed by an Amnesty International report for its numerous crimes.

READ MORE:Crimes of Ukrainian Aidar battalion confirmed in Amnesty Int’l report – Russia

“Members of the Aidar territorial defense battalion, operating in the north Lugansk region, have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions,”says the watchdog’s report from September.

Konstantin Dolgov , the Russian Foreign Ministry's human rights ombudsman, criticized the deployment of Aidar battalion in Vinnitsa.

“Kiev continues using chasteners from the Aidar [battalion] instead of punishing them for multiple atrocities in [Ukraine’s] south-east,” he wrote on Twitter.

According to Ukraine’s political scientist and journalist, Vladimir Skachko, ‘new Maidan’ in Vinnitsa proves people in Ukraine are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Kiev authorities.

“Nothing, against which Maidan was protesting, has changed; nothing in the economy, foreign and domestic policy, social or cultural sphere,” he said.