UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION SAYS HQ IN KYIV STORMED BY AUTHORITIES

Fox News on December 9, 2013, reported that heavily armed riot troops stormed the headquarters of a top Ukrainian opposition party in Kiev and stole computer servers, the party said, as anti-government protests crippled the capital for yet another day.

A spokeswoman for the party of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko blames police for the raid, but police have denied any involvement according to Reuters.

Ostap Semerak told The Associated Press that troops broke into the Fatherland Party’s offices. He said some troops were walking along its corridors while others were climbing in through the windows.

Tensions also rose as a double cordon of helmeted, shield-holding police deployed in the street near Kiev’s city administration building, which demonstrators had occupied and turned into a makeshift command post and dormitory.

…electricity to the building was cut off and occupiers began leaving, some carrying out blankets and other goods, expecting that police were preparing to storm the site. But a small crowd remained on the steps and in the street. About three hours later, the lights came back on and some of the protesters returned to occupy the building.

The protests were galvanized after police violently dispersed some of the demonstrators.

In a surprise move, Yanukovych announced that he would sit down with three former Ukrainian presidents to discuss a way out of the crisis. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, was headed to Ukraine to help defuse the tensions.

At the square, black-robed Orthodox priests sang solemn prayers calling for peace amid heavy snowfall. Some talked to the police.

Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for calm, telling several thousand protesters on Independence Square that police were ordered not to storm the building but to blockade the protest camp to deplete it of food and other amenities.

“I am turning to all Ukrainians: You must all go to the heart of the Maidan,” he said.

Some activists approached police lines, urging officers to come over to their side and even offering them food.

Opinion polls show that the EU is more popular among Ukrainians than Russia.

Wearing helmets and holding shields, Ukrainian police surrounded three tent encampments outside the government and presidential offices in central Kiev on Monday night. Riot police also began removing barricades on the approach to the government building. Most protesters remained standing.

World boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko warned the authorities against any further escalation in tensions.
“We are calling upon law enforcement to restrain from using force against peaceful demonstrators,” he said as he tried to stop police from removing the tents.

A large protest test camp remained in place on Independence Square, the downtown plaza that is the epicenter of the protests.

The square is a few hundred yards (meters) from the protester-occupied city administration building, which a court has ordered demonstrators to vacate.

“We won’t let anybody into the building,” said Vasyl Khlopotaruk, one of the activists. “But we hope there isn’t bloodshed.”
Some activists approached police lines, urging officers to come over to their side and even offering them food.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso dispatched EU foreign policy chief Ashton to Kiev on Tuesday, saying she will try to help defuse “the very tense solution that Ukraine is living today.” Barroso praised the demonstrators, saying they are “writing the new narrative for Europe.”

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt cautioned the government against using force.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Yanukovych by phone and urged him to defuse tensions and begin talks with opposition leaders, the White House said.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for Yanukovych’s ouster poured into Kiev, toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and blockading government buildings.

Protesters on Monday vandalized another Lenin statue in the southern town of Kotovsk.

“Only the legs are left standing,” town spokeswoman Yelena Khaustova told the AP.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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