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Ukraine Blog

Follow the latest developments as Ukraine attempts to deal with pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.


  • Independence Square is ablaze for a second night as protesters man barricades in faceoff with riot police [Reuters]


  • Correspondent Barnaby Phillips has joined the Al Jazeera team in Ukraine. He and Andrew Simmons will be on the ground with updates and analysis in the coming hours. You can follow Phillips on Twitter.

    I'm flying to #Ukraine this morning. Watch @AJEnglish s coverage in the critical days to come.

    — Barnaby Phillips (@BarnabyPhillips) February 19, 2014

  • How did Ukraine get here? Here's a timeline from the Associated Press of the key events that shaped the unrest.

    Nov. 21: President Viktor Yanukovich's government announces that it is abandoning an agreement that would strengthen ties with the European Union and instead seeks closer cooperation with Moscow. Protesters take to the streets.

    Nov. 30: Police brutally attack a group of protesters, detaining 35. Images of protesters bloodied by police truncheons spread quickly and galvanize public support for the demonstrations. A protest on Dec.attracts around 300,000 people, the largest in Kiev since the Orange Revolution in 2004. Activists seize Kiev City Hall.

    Dec. 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that Moscow will buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds and allow for a sharp cut in the price Ukrainians pay for Russian natural gas. Putin and Yanukovich claim there are no conditions attached.

    Jan. 22: Two protesters die after being hit with live ammunition and the third after a fall during a confrontation between police and demonstrators manning barricades, the first protest deaths.

    Jan. 28: The prime minister resigns and parliament repeals the new harsh anti-protest laws that set off the violence of a week earlier. Both are concessions to the opposition aimed at defusing the crisis. 

    Jan. 31: Opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov, missing since Jan. 22, resurfaces badly bruised and with part of his right ear cut off. He believes a pro-Russia group was behind his kidnapping and torture, raising fears among the opposition that extrajudicial squads are being deployed to intimidate protesters.

    Feb. 16: Opposition activists end their occupation of Kiev City Hall in exchange for the release of all 234 jailed protesters, in what is seen as a sign of progress toward resolving the crisis peacefully.

    Feb. 18: Deadly street clashes leave at least 26 protesters and police dead and hundreds injured. The violence begins when protesters attack police lines and set fires outside parliament after it stalls on taking up a constitutional reform to limit presidential powers. Russia's offer the day before to resume payments under the bailout deal also feeds opposition suspicions that Yanukovich has made a deal with Moscow to stand firm against the protesters. Riot police respond to the violence by trying to push protesters off Independence Square.

    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 2/19/2014 5:28:51 PM
  • Independence Square - crowds busy preparing molotovs, stones and rebuilding barricades #Ukraine

    — Barnaby Phillips (@BarnabyPhillips) February 19, 2014

  • Our latest video report from Ukraine.

  • More on that army change from AFP:

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday replaced the head of the army's general staff after announcing a new "anti-terrorist" operation in response to the country's deadliest violence since its post-Soviet independence.

    A brief presidential statement said Yanukovich was appointing Yuri Iliin, the naval commander, in place of Volodymyr Zamana to head the powerful post.

    The statement provided no explanation for the decision.


    It remains to be seen why the change was made. One possibility is that the sacked commander refused to deploy soldiers against protesters. More soon. 
  • Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from Kiev, says the new army chief is considered a more hardline option - and local media suggest the president's decision was in preparation for military action against the protesters. 
  • Al Jazeera correspondent Barnaby Phillips says his team has seen a badly burned body near a field hospital used by protesters near St Michael's Cathedral. More soon.

  • Protesters protect themselves with shields from police water cannon at the barricades at Independence square in Kiev on February 19, 2014. [AFP]
  • US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reacted cautiously to a truce between the Ukrainian government and opposition leaders.

    A White House statement said:

    "The leaders noted reports of a truce between the government and the opposition which, if implemented, would be a welcome step forward in pursuing that meaningful dialogue. They agreed they will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that actions mirror words." 

  • At least 10 protesters were killed on Thursday in fresh clashes between thousands of demonstrators and heavily-armed riot police in the heart of Kiev, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

    The bodies of at least 10 protesters with apparent gunshot wounds were
    lying on the ground outside a hotel on the edge of central Kiev's Independence
    Square, the AFP reporter said.
  • Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday Russia could only have  fully-fledged bilateral relations with Ukraine when its legitimate leadership was in "good shape", Interfax news agency reported.

    "We will continue to cooperate with our Ukrainian partners in all areas, we will try to do everything to fulfil those promises which we gave. But at the same time for this to happen it is necessary for our partners themselves to be in good shape and for the authorities in Ukraine to be legitimate and effective," he was quoted as saying. [Reuters]
  • Fierce clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine's capital have erupted anew and an Associated Press reporter has seen 10 bodies laid out on the edge of the protest encampment.

    As the violence explodes and heavy smoke
    from burning barricades at the 
    encampment belches into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries are meeting with President Viktor
    Yanukovych, according to a 
    presidential aide.

    Earlier Thursday, a French Embassy spokeswoman said the meeting was cancelled for security reasons, but a top Yanukovych aide later said the meeting was under way. [AP]
  • The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland began a meeting on Thursday with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych after initially delaying the talks over security concerns, the Ukrainian leader's spokesman said.

    "The meeting has already started. All three foreign ministers are there," the presidential spokesman told AFP. 
  • Top officials were evacuated on Thursday from Ukraine's main government building close to clashes in the heart of Kiev that AFP reporters said left at least 17 protesters dead with apparent gun shot wounds.

    "This morning, all cabinet employees were evacuated from the building. These were official orders," a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian government told AFP.


  • Kiev's mayor resigned from President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling Regions Party on Thursday in protest over the "bloodshed"  that has claimed dozens of lives in the Ukrainian capital.

    "The events happening in the Ukrainian capital are a tragedy," Volodymyr Makeyenko said in a statement. "I have decided to resign from the Regions Party  and assume personal responsibility for the livelihood of the city of Kiev."

    [AFP]
  • Anti-government protesters prepare Molotov cocktails during clashes with riot police in the Independence Square in Kiev on Thursday. Fresh fighting broke out in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday, claiming more than 20 lives [Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]



  • Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reports from Kiev on the recent clashes between the anti-government protesters and the security forces

  • Anti-government protesters in Ukraine have seized 67 police officers, the interior ministry announced, saying it reserved the right to use firepower to free them.

    "Radical extremists have seized 67 interior ministry servicemen," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. 

    "Law enforcement officials can resort to all legal means (to secure their release), including the use of arms."

    [AFP]
  • Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has said that the European Union has decided to impose visa bans and asset freezes on those deemed responsible for the violence in Ukraine, according to Reuters news agency.

    The EU foreign ministers have been holding an emergency meeting in Brussels on the situation in Ukraine.

    Speaking as she left the gathering, Bonino said the position had been agreed with the French, German and Polish foreign ministers, who are currently in Kiev negotiating with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

    "The decision is to proceed very rapidly, in the next hours, to a visa ban and asset freeze on those who have committed the violence," she told reporters.

    [Reuters]
  • Demonstrators set up barricades in central Kiev [Reuters]

  • Dozens of men, many in camouflage and protective gear holding batons, seen running towards the barricade on Kiev's main street, Khreshchatyk , which is the furthest barricade away from the square. An ambulance raced towards city hall where there is a medical centre on the second floor.
    [Freelance journalist Kristina Jovanovski reporting from Kiev]

  • Anti-government protesters listen to speeches by their leaders in Kiev's Independence square [Reuters]  


  • Vice President Joe Biden has warned Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that the United States was ready to impose sanctions on officials guilty of ordering troops to fire on protesters.

    Biden spoke to the Ukrainian leader by telephone on Thursday and "made clear that the United States is prepared to sanction those officials responsible for the violence," the White House said in a statement.

    The call came on a torrid day in Kiev in which more than 60 people were killed in the worst carnage since the start of anti-government protests.

    Washington earlier said it was outraged that government troops had turned automatic weapons on protesters and made clear that it was moving closer to imposing sanctions, a step the European Union has already taken.

    The White House statement said Biden called upon Yanukovych to "immediately pull back all security forces, police, snipers, military and paramilitary units, and irregular forces.

    "The Vice President urged President Yanukovych to take immediate and tangible steps to work with the opposition on a path forward that addresses the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people."
    [AFP]
  • The protest zone on Khreshchatyk street leading to 'Maidan' (Independence square) was quiet with protesters walking around, heading to and away from the square where protesters are still camped out.

    Slava Sikach, a 28-years-old tourism business owner, is a volunteer who hands out food to fellow protesters.

    "It's quiet right now. It's not dangerous now at all, people are waiting what to do," she said.

    Slava said that she feels safe adding that she is ready for new attacks.

    "People need to help each other that's why we came. We were here during the day and now we came again."

    Tatyana Stepanenko is a mother from Kiev and a volunteer serving food to protesters at Independence Square.

    "We don't fight, we just protest against the corruption in our government. We protest against law when it doesn't work anywhere, corruption is all around."

    "Nothing is working in this country, we have no good healthcare system, no education, very little salary."

    [Freelance journalist Kristina Jovanovski reporting from Kiev]

  • Al Jazeera's Nick Schifrin updates on the situation in Kiev

  • Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had tried to reach the Ukrainian defense ministry to discuss the violence, but "they have been unresponsive to our requests." Kirby said the lack of responsiveness was unprecedented.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violence in a statement, saying he felt "anger and anguish." 

    He called on Yanukovych to undertake serious negotiations with opposition leaders immediately.

    "The violence must stop," Kerry said. "We unequivocally condemn the use of force against civilians by security forces, and urge that those forces be withdrawn immediately. The people of Ukraine and the international community will hold to account those who are responsible for what has occurred, and the United States has already begun implementing sanctions through travel bans on Ukrainians responsible for the violence."
    [AP]

  • Talks between EU foreign ministers, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, opposition leaders and lawmakers to broker a political settlement are nearing an end, an EU source said on Friday.

    The ministers, from Germany, France and Poland, have been talking for hours in what they have called "difficult negotiations" to try to forge a plan to end the crisis which has turned violent, killing 75 people in two days. [Reuters]
  • Ukraine opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko has spoken to German newspaper Bild.


    "We will sign the deal, we are prepared to do everything to obtain a peaceful solution. I told the German foreign minister I would personally appeal to protesters before signing. All arguments must be considered before it comes to a signature."

  • Police officers from Lviv have joined anti-government protesters:


    Police officers who joined the protesters wait to address Independence Square during a rally in Kiev [Reuters]
    The crowd in Kiev cheers the Lviv officers 
    Independence Square remains the focus of many protests, but they are spreading beyond the capital [Reuters] 
     
     

    1 of 3




  • EU ministers have reportedly won backing for an agreement on resolving the Ukraine crisis from a council representing the protesters.

    More soon.

    [Reuters]

    UPDATE:

    After marathon talks with President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders, three EU envoys said a "temporary" agreement was due to be signed on Friday in what would be a major step forward in ending the worst crisis since Ukraine's independence.

    [AFP]
  • Opposition leader Tyahnibok says protesters council backs agreement on condition that present interior minister and prosecutor-general are excluded from any interim government.

    [Interfax]



  • Faces from the barricades:

     
     

    1 of 3



    [Picture credits: Reuters]

  • Ukraine's opposition leaders have signed a deal with the president and European mediators for early elections and a new government in hopes of ending a deadly political crisis.

  • Deal welcomed:




  • Details of the deal:

    1. Within 48 hours, a special law comes into effect which bring the old 2004 constitution back into effect. Those who signed it will form a government of national unity 10 day after the constitution is changed. 

    2. Further constitutional reform will be completed by September. 

    3. Elections will be held after this, that but no later than December. New electoral laws to be adopted and a new Central Electoral Commission will replace the existing one. 

    4. There will be an investigation into the violence by a joint commission (Council of Europe, opposition and the government)

    5. Authorities will not announce a state of emergency. Government and opposition pledge not to use force. Parliament will adopt a third amnesty law which will work in the same way as the previous amnesty. Both sides will try to normalise life in towns and cities by vacating buildings and squares/streets. Weapons acquired illegally have to be returned within 72 hours there will be prosecutions. Authorities will only use security forces to defend public buildings. 

    6. All three Foreign Ministers and the Russian envoy call for an end to the violence immediately. 

    Signed by Yanukovich, three opposition leaders, Polish FM, German FM, and representative of French FM.
  • Video reportedly showing police firing at protesters in Kiev


    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the content of this video, although the news media site storyful has verified its content, date of production and source.

    by Philippa Stewart via YouTube edited by Graeme Baker 2/21/2014 3:39:39 PM

  • An amazing picture we had to share, given the scenes of death in the very same spot yesterday in Ukraine. Here, crowds in Independence Square light the night with their mobile phones at a memorial for victims of Thursday's clashes in Independence Square. You can see a picture of Yulia Tymoshenko on the poster board. Tymoshenko is set for release following the pact that ended the bloodshed.

    [Reuters] 










  • Women light candles in memory of victims of recent violent protests in Kiev, in Budapest
    [Reuters] 


  • Ukraine parliament speaker, who is a supporter of President Viktor Yanukovich, resigned on Saturday, according to AFP.
  • Ukraine's opposition is to seek parliamentary support on Saturday for a resolution calling on
    President Viktor Yanukovich to resign, an opposition spokeswoman said.

    "We will submit the resolution with the demand for Yanukovich to resign," Oksana Zinoviyeva, a spokeswoman for the 'Udar' party of Vitaly Klitschko, told Reuters. "It will allow the parliament to set the date for early elections," she said.

    Klitschko told crowds on Kiev's Independence Square that he 
    would seek support from lawmakers "to get rid of" Yanukovich, who was due to visit the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Saturday. [Reuters]
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