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27 Jan, 2014 01:58

Ukraine Justice Ministry seized by rioters

Protesters in Kiev seized the Justice Ministry building near Independence Square on Sunday, following a day of calm. It comes one day after rioters seiged a convention center in the capital where police were stationed.

Rioters seized the building on Sunday evening. “At 22:38 security in the building called in an attempted seizure of the building. Information was confirmed, the building remains seized,” police said, according to Unian news agency.

Local media reported that no one was hurt during the seizure of the building. Following the incident, activist group Common Cause claimed responsibility for the seizure, posting a message on their Facebook page.

Ukrainian Justice Minister Elena Lukash has said she will ask the National Security and Defense Council to introduce a state of emergency if rioters do not leave the ministry building.

"If the protesters do not leave the Justice Ministry building in half an hour I will ask the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to impose the state of emergency,” she told Inter TV channel.

Lukash said the ministry building was captured just when the last amendments were being made to the law “On Changes to the Constitution of Ukraine” in order to return to the 2004 text of the constitution.

According to AFP, the group entered the building without any resistance and is currently building a system of barricades just outside the building. Common Cause is reportedly the same group that earlier occupied the Energy and Agricultural Ministries.

UDAR party leader Vitaly Klitschko entered the building, Interfax reported.

Despite some active steps taken by the opposition, there is a definite split in the protest movement, RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky reports from Kiev.

Opposition leaders can’t even agree on their positions on a presidential amnesty.

“President Yanukovich said he'll release the detained protesters - if there's no further resistance in central Kiev. And our position is the same,” Vitaly Klitschko said.

His fellow opposition leader Oleg Tyagnibok expressed the opposite point of view.

“We'll only agree to Yanukovich's terms on the release of the protesters, if the interior minister orders police not to arrest our people anymore,” he said.

The opposition leaders largely fail to convince the crowd, too.

“I’m not even listening to them, everything has already been done by us”, “We're running the show, they are forced to listen to us” are just two of the opinions heard by RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky on Kiev’s streets.

Sunday began with a ceasefire in Kiev as protesters reinforced barricades and mourned a deceased protester. Sunday demonstrations were called off to allow for the funeral procession, RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky reported.

Several foreign diplomats - including European, US, and Canadian ambassadors - “inspected” Kiev’s Independence Square on Sunday and spoke to representatives of the radical Right Sector group, the press service of the opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party said in a statement.

Под МинЮстом сейчас. via @sheleviy #Євромайдан #Евромайдан#Euromaidanpic.twitter.com/XlFy2WC1Ud

— ЄВРОМАЙДАН (@euromaidan) January 26, 2014

The diplomats are “convinced” that the protests in central Kiev are “not dangerous” and that protesters do not have “stockpiles of arms,” the report says. They also allegedly agreed that “beasts” and “armed gangs” were responsible for the violence, while protesters “are defending their rights and dignity.”

Officials arrived around the time of the memorial service for the deceased Independence Square protester. It is not clear whether the diplomats planned their arrival time accordingly.

Meanwhile, member of parliament for the ruling Party of Regions, Vadim Kolesnichenko, said that opposition leaders in Ukraine have no idea how to end the crisis. "Regrettably, last night in Kiev demonstrated that the opposition leaders are unable to fulfill the obligations they have undertaken," he told ITAR-TASS.

"Arseniy Yatsenyuk's [leader of the opposition Batkivshchina party] statement that he is ready to head the Ukrainian government to continue the European integration course looks treacherous after the turmoil the protesters staged at the Ukrainian House in European Square. It looks like the opposition leaders have neither any idea nor solutions how to get out of the current situation," Kolesnichenko added.

Overall, at least 311 police officers have been injured in the Kiev riots, 118 of whom have been hospitalized with head injuries, fractures, burns, and stab and slash wounds. Some have also been poisoned by “unknown substances,” the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a Sunday statement.

The ministry’s press service also informed Unian news agency that 116 people have been detained in connection with the mass riots in central Kiev and that a criminal investigation into “mass disorder” on Grushevskogo Street has been opened.

Several people who were previously convicted, including those who have been charged with especially grave crimes, are among the detained.

On Saturday evening, rioters stormed the Ukrainian House international convention center in Kiev. Around 200 riot police were inside the building at the time of the siege, all of whom managed to exit through a side window. Protesters threw small bombs and Molotov cocktails into the building. Police did not retaliate.

On the same day, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich offered top government posts to protest leaders and promised a review of the constitution - a move aimed at giving more power to parliament. Yanukovich proposed the post of prime minister to Batkivshina Party leader Arseny Yatsenyuk. Udar Party leader Vitaly Klitchko was offered the post of deputy prime minister for humanitarian affairs.

Despite the offers, no conclusion was reached and talks are set to continue on Tuesday.

Protests spreading beyond Kiev

The violence that started in Kiev has spread to the west of the country and to several cities across Ukraine. Protesters have been targeting government buildings in an attempt to occupy them.

On Sunday, hundreds of anti-government protesters besieged a city administration building in the southeastern city of Zaporozhye. Footage from the scene showed a large crowd of demonstrators facing off against a police line at the main entrance to the building. Riot police managed to regain control of the area.

Hundreds of protesters rallied near government buildings in the southern Ukrainian cities of Odessa and Dnepropetrovsk.

Demonstrators also occupied an administrative building in the northeastern city of Sumy, proclaiming “People’s Rada” – an alternative regional parliament. The seizure of the building was followed by an opposition rally which claimed to have gathered 5,000 people. All the protesters were later dispersed by police.