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Protest Erupts Outside Ukrainian Parliament

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Demonstrators have clashed with police outside the Ukrainian parliament during a raucous protest that prompted the legislature to go into recess.

Some of the protesters tried to push past police and enter parliament during the demonstration on October 14.

The approximately 500 protesters were demanding the Verkhovna Rada include on its agenda a draft law recognizing controversial World War II-era guerrilla resistance groups -- the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) -- as national heroes.

Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported some of the protesters were armed with sticks or clubs and fireworks were thrown at the parliament building and at police who were present in large numbers.

Some of the protesters were reportedly from the nationalist Svoboda party but party leader Oleh Tyahnybok denied Svoboda was involved.

Another nationalist group, Right Sector, posted a message on Twitter denying its members were involved.

Herashchenko pointed a finger at Moscow, saying "it is not ruled out that the foreign special services of the Russian Federation stood beind the organizers of this provocation."

Parliament was able to confirm a new defense minister before adjourning.

Deputies endorsed Stepan Poltorak, who is currently chief of the National Guard, in a 245-1 vote.

Poltorak replaces Valeriy Heletey, who was criticized over the Ukrainian military's performance in combating pro-Russian separatists who continue to hold large portions of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions after fighting that has killed more than 3,660 people since April.

Heletey handed in resignation on October 12 after only three months on the job.

When announcing his candidate to replace Heletey on October 13, Poroshenko praised Poltorak for his "professionalism and patriotism" and said Poltorak had turned the National Guard into a formidable fighting force in a short time.

Before the confirmation vote, Poroshenko said Poltorak and forces under his command had driven pro-Russian separatists from the regional administration building in Kharkiv, a major eastern city that has remained under government control along with the surrounding province.

During his swearing-in after the vote, Poltorak pledged "to strengthen the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."

Parliament also passed a bill to create a National Anticorruption Bureau, an attempt by the new Ukrainian government to fight a problem that has long plagued the country.

Poroshenko signed a lustration law on October 9.

Under that law, up to 1 million public servants, including cabinet ministers, are to be screened for loyalty to root out the corrupt practices of previous pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych's administration.

Meanwhile, Russia's foreign minister has told European businesspeople that Western sanctions imposed on Moscow are not helping to resolve the Ukraine crisis.

Sergei Lavrov told a meeting of the Association of European Businesses that the sanctions "do not contribute to de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine."

Lavrov told the October 14 meeting in Moscow that the sanctions are "harmful" and "unlawful" and would end up costing Europe some 40 billion euros ($50 billion) this year and some 50 billion euros next year.

He did not explain the basis for these figures.

Lavrov said Russia lamented the disruption in ties with the European Union that have accompanied the sanctions.

He assured the delegates that Russia was interested in building energy cooperation with the EU, saying it would be beneficial to both sides.

With additional reporting by UNIAN, AP, TASS, and Interfax