Clashes in Kiev Over Plan to Give Ukraine's Rebel Provinces Self-rule

Deadly clashes broke out between police and nationalist protesters in Kiev after politicians gave their support for greater autonomy in the separatist regions in the east.

Published: 01st September 2015 07:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st September 2015 07:50 AM   |  A+A-

Deadly clashes broke out between police and nationalist protesters in Kiev yesterday (Monday) after politicians gave their support for greater autonomy in the separatist regions in the east.

At least one soldier was killed and more than 100 people were injured after grenades and firearms were used in some of the worst violence in the capital since the revolution that overthrew Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

The 25-year-old officer, named as Igor Derbin, was shot in the heart, an interior ministry official said.

Both riot police and protesters used batons, tear gas and smoke bombs before a live hand grenade was thrown into a crowd outside the parliament building. A video filmed from inside parliament showed an object flying over the heads of the police cordon before an explosion that sent apparently wounded officers scattering in several directions.

Earlier in the day, parliament passed the first reading of constitutional amendments that would decentralise some powers to regional governments. The amendments were passed by 39 votes in a fraught session of parliament yesterday morning. The changes are required under the Minsk peace agreement, a road map to ending the 16-month war with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

The decentralisation plan is backed by Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, who is under intense pressure from Western governments to find a solution to the war that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives. A fresh ceasefire is due to come into force today.

Supporters say the changes will allow Kiev to put pressure on the separatists and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to fulfil their part of the agreement, including allowing elections to be held under Ukrainian law and eventually handing back control of the border to Ukrainian forces.

But the move has been denounced by some MPs and protesters as tantamount to surrender and legalisation of the occupation of large swathes of eastern territory.

The amendments will have to pass a much tougher second and third reading before being adopted.

Separatist leaders have already said the law does not go far enough to fulfil their reading of the Minsk agreement.

The violence began after protesters including members of the far-Right Pravy Sektor and the nationalist political party Svoboda gathered outside parliament and stopped traffic.

Arsen Avakov, the interior minister, said that 30 people including the grenade thrower had been arrested, and attacked the Svoboda party for the violence. The grenade thrower, he said, was found to be carrying several other devices including a Soviet-designed F1 fragmentation grenade.

Vitaly Klitschko, the mayor of Kiev, called the perpetrators "scum". He said: "The murderous provocation at parliament must be met with legal response and consequences. The public should know who the perpetrators and organisers of this terrorist act are and what punishment they will get."

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