By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Dozens of people, including politicians, have been seriously injured when Ukrainian anti-government protesters clashed with police in the capital Kyiv.
The overnight violence broke out after Ukrainian court handed down a six-year jail sentence to far right activists Igor Musiychuk, Volodymyr Spara and Sergiy Bevz.
They allegedly prepared to blow up a statue of late Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in 2011, but the protesters deny wrongdoing.
Supporters had gathered outside the court saying the trial and verdict was politically motivated.
Soon clashes broke out when protesters tried to stop police vehicles carrying the men out of the court building.
Among those injured was Ukraine’s former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a close ally jailed opposition leader, and former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. He was released from prison in April last year after receiving a pardon by the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.
A journalist was reportedly also beaten by baton wielding riot police, who attacked demonstrators, using spray.
The clashes come amid the largest ongoing anti-government rallies since the Orange Revolution in 2004. Yet there is some concern that the far-right is creating division within the opposition.
On New Year’s Day, about 15,000 people took part in a torchlit procession and protests through Kiev to mark 105 years since the birth of wartime nationalist leader Stepan Bandera.
He is honoured with statues in western Ukraine but condemned in regions closer to Russia, as well as by Jews and Poles, who view him as a Nazi-sympathizer.
The opposition wants the president and government to leave after refusing to sign the European Union Association Agreement. Instead, President Viktor Yanukovych struck a deal with Russia in December, which has seen big cuts in the price of natural gas imports from Russia.
Moscow also supported Ukraine’s troubled economy, with a $15 billion purchase of government bonds and the Kremlin wants the country to join the Russia-led Customs Union.