Ukrainian leader 'outraged', slams violence in Kiev as police disperse protesters

The Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, has stated his outrage at the violent events which occurred in Kiev’s Independence Square, and harshly condemned the actions that led to the employment of force against the protesters.

“I demand that the General Prosecutor's Office urgently provide me – and Ukrainian society – with the results of a prompt and objective investigation in order to properly punish the perpetrators,” said the leader in his address to the Ukrainian people, published on the presidential website on Saturday.

The special task force, Berkut, armed with clubs and shields dispersed the protesters at Kiev’s landmark Independence Square early on Saturday. They had been demonstrating against the government’s decision to suspend signing a key integration deal with the EU. 

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich reads his notes before the plenary session of the European Union's Eastern Partnership summit on November 29, 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania.(AFP Photo / Alain Jocard)

Thirty-five people were reported to be detained. However, they were released later in the day. According to medics, 35 people were injured - seven of whom were hospitalized.

After the protest at the Independence Square was dispersed, between 5,000 and 10,000 protesters assembled in Kiev's St. Michael's Square on Saturday evening to continue rallying against Yanukovich’s government.

The EU condemned the excessive use of force by the police during the rally and urged Kiev to carry out an investigation and prosecute the perpetrators, said both the European Union’s top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton, and the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule, in a statement given to Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Saturday.

Fule also urged the Ukrainian authorities to refrain from the use of force on his Twitter account.

The US envoy to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, also condemned “the violence against peaceful demonstrators.”

Meanwhile a petition has been posted on the US White House website asking the US government to help “peacefully overthrow the current Government and President” of Ukraine and to hold “democratic elections for a new parliament and bring to justice all present perpetrators of state power”.

The petition has gathered about 40,000 signatures.

Another petition created on Tuesday asked the US government to impose sanctions on the Ukrainian president “unless Mr Yanukovich signs the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement” The petition has gathered about 116,000 signatures – which is more than the 100,000 threshold needed for the petition to be reviewed by the administration.

A general view shows the square in front of the Mikhailovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral (St. Michael's golden-domed cathedral) during a rally supporting EU integration in Kiev November 30, 2013. .(Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

Moscow has said that it is ready for trilateral talks with Kiev and Brussels over the economic consequences of the association deal between Ukraine and the EU.

“We were not the ones who proposed or insisted on these talks, but if the European Union and Ukraine want us to discuss the economic consequences of the association to our trilateral relations, we are ready, in principle, to so,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vassily Nebenzia said on Saturday.

Political commentator Aleksander Nekrasov told RT that there isn’t much support among the Ukrainians for the association with the European Union.

“I don’t think there’s much support [for the deal with the EU]. I think there’s a lot of confusion, a lot of people don’t understand what’s going on. The most important thing for the Ukrainians to know is that there won’t be a free visa area. They won’t be able to travel to the West; they will encounter a lot of opposition from the West. The feeling is across the EU is that immigrants steal their jobs, they use their benefits and that they are a burden to their economies. I don’t understand why Ukrainians would want to go to countries which are basically hostile to them.”

Chris Weafer, a senior partner in the Marco advisory consulting firm told RT that the people will be convinced not to join the EU, as Ukraine needs more financial support then the EU can provide.

We’ve heard from the bureaucrats and leaders as expected, disappointment with Ukraine’s decision but to be honest there will probably be a certain sense of relief as well. Ukraine has got a population of 45 million people, a very struggling economy; it needs a great deal of financial support to grow and pull out of this slump it’s in. The European Union is not in so financial shape nor is it in political shape to start making overtures to Ukraine. It has far more pressing problems in countries like Greece and Spain. Both sides will be happy to come back to this when they are in a stronger position,” Weafer said.

RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin

Meanwhile, several dozen people wearing masks have gathered near St Michael’s Square bearing sticks, and performing a coordinated series of actions in front of the media and passers-by. It is unclear why they decided to adopt the masks and what their purpose is. Locals speculate that they are practicing self-defense to guard against the riot police.