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25 Jan, 2014 14:24

Kiev protesters siege energy ministry building as Donetsk holds pro-govt rallies

Kiev protesters siege energy ministry building as Donetsk holds pro-govt rallies

Some 100 radical activists armed with clubs briefly entered the Ukrainian Energy Ministry building in Kiev and then blocked its main entrance. In Donetsk, thousands rallied in support of President Yanukovich’s government, protesting against the unrest.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on the unrest in Ukraine

Ukraine’s energy minister, Eduard Stavytsky, arrived at the scene for talks with the armed protesters and warned them their actions could ruin the entire energy system of the country.

“There was an attempt to seize the building. About 100 people came, armed. I went to them and said that if they did not peacefully leave the building then the whole energy system of Ukraine could collapse,”
Stavytsky told Reuters by telephone.

The radical protesters then left the ministry but continued blocking the building. According to Interfax, the protesters now require everyone entering the building from the side entrance to show ministry IDs. Although the main entrance has been sealed, the ministry continues to function normally.

The action was carried out by the so-called “Spilna sprava” (“Common cause”) opposition movement, which is demanding that the Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, all step down.

The leader of the group, Aleksandr Danilyuk, said on his Facebook page that the action’s aim was to “show that Yanukovich does not control the situation in the country and is a threat to the lives and health of millions.”

According to Danilyuk, the protesters were able to enter the strategic building freely without any resistance.

In response to the incident, Stavytsky ordered all Ukraine’s nuclear facilities to switch to a high security mode. According to the minister, the radicals have already approached some of the country’s nuclear sites.

“In reality, this is a gang of terrorists,” said Stavytsky, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

People hold a sign reading ""We are against the Syrian scenario!" as they take part in a demonstration rally in support of the Ukrainian President, in the industrial city of Makeyevka, in the Donetsk industrial region, on January 25, 2014 (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteplov)

Meanwhile in eastern Ukraine, thousands of people took to the streets for rallies in support of President Yanukovich.

RT’s Paula Slier spoke to demonstrators in Donetsk, Ukraine’s major industrial, economic and scientific center, where the city officials estimated 300,000 people were taking part in Saturday’s rally. According to Slier, the pro-government demonstrators say that protesters in Kiev are small in number, do not represent the whole nation and are supported by foreign contingents from the West.

The rally was organized by Yanukovich’s Party of Regions under the mottos of “Donbass against violence and civil war!” and “Donbass for lawfulness, peace and common sense!”

Watch’s RT’s Peter Oliver, RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky and RT’s Slier report on the split between Ukraine’s regions.

Violent riots in Kiev claimed another life on Saturday, as a rioter who took part in earlier clashes with the police died in hospital, RIA Novosti reported.

The number of the people injured in the ongoing unrest has reached hundreds, with both the protesters and the police reporting equal shares of casualties. Dozens of rioters and activists taking part in anti-government actions have been detained, with at least 48 arrested.

Both the shocking scenes of burning police officers hit by petrol bombs, and the footage of harsh treatment of captured rioters, some beaten and stripped naked in -10C cold, have been circulating the web.

Meanwhile, EU officials focused on Ukrainian police brutality against what they have been referring to as peaceful protesters, with the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule, urging Kiev to put an end to the violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on Saturday criticized such statements as only “heating” the situation up by encouraging the armed rioters to continue the unrest.

Lavrov discussed the situation in Ukraine with EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, Italian Foreign Minister, Emma Bonino, as well as with US Secretary of State John Kerry, on the sidelines of the Geneva 2 peace conference in Montreux.

The Western leaders were “concerned” with the situation in Ukraine and showed greater awareness of the dangers of “flirting with the opposition,” Lavrov told Itar-Tass.