POLICE STORM PROTEST CAMP IN UKRAINE – OPPOSITION LEADER AND BOXING HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMPION VITALI KLYTSKO: NO TO POLICE STATE, NO TO DICTATORSHIP

Fox News on December10, 2013, reported that several thousand police in riot gear stormed a protest camp in the central square of the Ukrainian capital, clashing with demonstrators as they dismantled barricades and evicted protesters from tents. Excerpts below:

Protesters shouted “Shame!” ”We will stand!” and sang the Ukrainian national anthem.

The police tore down barricades surrounding the camp at Independence Square, but then moved back after fierce resistance from thousands of protesters, whose ranks swelled as the night went on.

The police took up positions on the perimeters of the camp, then began clashing with demonstrators and trying again to dismantle the barricades.

Scuffles broke out between police and opposition lawmakers, one of whom laid down on the snow trying to block a vehicle from advancing on the camp. An Orthodox priest sang prayers, and one protester undressed to his waist in the frigid air, got down on his knees and shouted “Stop this … We are one people!”

Kiev police said authorities were merely trying to clear the streets leading to Independence Square, but not to remove the main encampment, the Ukrainian Interfax news agency reported.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, who is the reigning world heavyweight boxing champion, urged Ukrainians to rush to the center of the capital to defend democracy. “We will say no to a police state, no to a dictatorship,” he told protesters in the square.

The confrontation at the protest camp unfolded as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were in the city to try to talk to the government and the opposition and work out a solution.

Soon after Yanukovych spoke in a televised broadcast, opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told demonstrators at the square that the protest leaders were still insisting on their key demands: that Yanukovych fire the government, appoint a new one committed to signing an association agreement with the EU, release all the arrested protesters, and punish the police who beat peaceful demonstrators.

Riot police have twice previously dispersed demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, beating some severely enough to send them to intensive care.

Yanukovych also vowed to renew talks with the EU on the trade and political agreement. He indicated he was still willing to sign the EU deal at a summit in spring, but only if the EU can offer better financial terms. He said at present, the EU agreement could cost economically struggling Ukraine billions in lost trade with Russia, which has used trade threats to try to keep Ukraine in its orbit.

The EU’s enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fule, said Tuesday the bloc was ready to step “up the European Union’s financial assistance programs to help Ukraine implement the agreement, when signed.”

Ukraine’s dire economic straits have also been a factor in its political crisis. The country of 46 million people has been in recession for more than a year…

Moscow has worked aggressively to derail the deal with the EU and lure Kiev into its own economic group by offering price discounts and loans as well as imposing painful trade restrictions.

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