Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kiev Factions Trade Violence Claims Authorities Said to Incite Violence Protest Leaders Say Government Refuses to Talk

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kiev Factions Trade Violence Claims Authorities Said to Incite Violence Protest Leaders Say Government Refuses to Talk

Article excerpt

KIEV, Ukraine -- As demonstrators in ski masks scuffled with police here Tuesday evening, opposition leaders accused the government of provoking the very violence it has been condemning in an effort to discredit and possibly split the protest movement.

"We see a radicalization of the opposition. We see the escalation of the conflict, but we hear the government speak of the street," said Irina V. Gerashchenko, a member of Parliament with the Udar Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform. "This is very dangerous. The government should speak of the country, should speak of its citizens and civil society."

Opposition leaders say President Viktor Yanukovych's government has rebuffed all offers of negotiations, further fueling a dangerously volatile situation. "Few days are left, or maybe even hours, when solving the political process is possible through negotiations," said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a leader of the opposition Fatherland Party. "This should be done while people are still willing to listen to politicians and accept the path to political resolution of the crisis."

The government's opponents pointed to three recent actions by the government that they said were intended to incite the more radical protesters and sow doubt in the minds of the moderates: new laws passed last week circumscribing the right for public assembly; the blocking of a protest march on a side street; and sending cellphone messages Tuesday to people standing in the vicinity of the fighting saying, "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov blamed European Union and U.S. politicians for encouraging the fighting between police and protesters that broke out in Kiev, the capital, over the past three days. The situation in the city, he warned, was "getting out of control." Speaking at a Moscow news conference, Mr. Lavrov said, "It seems someone is interested in this chaos."

U.S. diplomats in December had told a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that the Ukrainian government should heed the opinion of the population or risk instability, he noted. "What was this, prophesy or a prediction?"

Protest leaders said authorities seem to be giving the more radical protesters free rein, while going out of their way to frighten more moderate sorts, particularly with the threatening text messages sent Tuesday. The messages' phrasing, about "participating in a mass disturbance," echoed that in the new law making it a crime to participate in a protest deemed violent. The law took effect Tuesday.

Protesters were concerned that the government seemed to be using cutting-edge technology from the advertising industry to pinpoint potential customers for political profiling.

Three cellphone firms in Ukraine -- Kievstar, MTS and Life, -- denied that they had provided the location data to the government or sent the text messages, the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper reported. …

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