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Ukraine: Police Clash With Anti-Kuchma Demonstrators

Kyiv, 9 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Reports from Ukraine say around 200 people demonstrating against President Leonid Kuchma clashed with riot police in central Kyiv today. The incident took place in a park where Kuchma is due to lay flowers later in the day. Reports say police lashed out with truncheons during the confrontation, forcing the protesters back. There were no reports of serious injuries.

Kuchma is accused by his opponents of having ordered the kidnapping of investigative reporter Heorhiy Gongadze, whose headless body was found outside Kyiv last year. Kuchma strongly denies the charge.

Yesterday protesters marched through the Ukrainian capital Kyiv demanding the release of a former Ukrainian deputy prime minister.

Yulia Tymoshenko is awaiting trial on charges of bribery, smuggling and forgery, stemming from her time as head of Ukraine's top private gas trading company in the 1990s. Tymoshenko says the charges are politically motivated by allies of President Leonid Kuchma.

Kuchma is facing mounting public opposition over the sacking of Tymoshenko. Earlier in the week, he demanded officials either support him or step down.

Ukrainian officials have been accused of not vigorously investigating Gongadze's disappearance. Yesterday, the National Security and Defense chief, Yevhen Marchuk, acknowledged mistakes have been made in the probe.