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Ukraine Blog

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

  • Protesters clean up after violence in Independence Square [Reuters]

  • European Union foreign ministers have been summoned for crisis talks on Ukraine on Thursday as shock and outrage over the bloodshed in Kiev triggered strident calls for sanctions.

    "All possible options will be explored, including restrictive measures against those responsible for repression and human rights violations," said the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton 
  • In case you missed it, our Inside Story programme recently focused on Ukraine's choice: East vs West.

  • Protest leaders are reportedly calling for their supporters to remain on the streets of Kiev after a night of violence that left a reported 25 people dead and scores injured. We will be updating our main story on the page very soon. Please check back for more.
  • Meanwhile, the International Business Times reports that protesters have 'declared independence' from Ukraine in Lviv, a town on the border with Poland. 
  • Here's a recap of last nights violence in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

  • The scene in Kiev at this moment: protesters hurl stones next to stores of petrol bombs. [Reuters]

  • A US official has told Reuters news agency that Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to reiterate that the US is open to imposing sanctions on Ukraine.

    The official noted the Obama administration has previously raised the possibility of sanctioning Ukraine.

    by Rahul Radhakrishnan edited by Graeme Baker 2/19/2014 1:57:13 PM
  • The rhetoric on sanctions is getting louder. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country sympathises with Ukranian protesters, and European leaders will discuss sanctions on Ukraine's government that will show Europe is serious about a political solution. 

    We stand with the men and women suffering in Kiev - Angela Merkel.

  • Meanwhile, the AP quotes Ukraine's security agency as saying that protesters have seized more than 1,500 firearms during street clashes in the capital. Police previously claimed they had been shot at. Al Jazeera cannot verify either claim.
  • More from AFP on the European reaction to the crisis:

    Germany and France condemned the "unspeakable, unacceptable violence" in Ukraine, the French president, Francois Hollande, said on Wednesday after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    "There are unspeakable, unacceptable, intolerable acts being carried out in Ukraine," the French leader said at a joint press conference with his German counterpart, urging sanctions.
  • An alarming development in Ukraine, as AP reports that security forces are branding protesters "extremists", "radicals" and "terrorists":

    Ukraine's top security agency says that protesters have seized over 1,500 firearms, and is  announcing a nationwide ``anti-terrorist'' operation to restore order.  

    In a statement Wednesday, Ukraine's Security Service said that such actions by "radical and extremist groups" threaten the lives of millions of Ukrainians. [AP]

  • A man breaks paving slabs to prepare for confrontations in Kiev [Reuters] 

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is "deeply saddened" by the escalation of events in Ukraine, and called for a political solution to the standoff.

    In a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, Merkel also said that the imminent threat of sanctions against the Ukrainian government was meant to show Kiev that EU is serious about the need for a return to political dialogue.

  • French President Francois Hollande has condemned the ongoing violence in Ukraine.

    In a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Hollande called the clashes in capital Kiev that killed at least 26 people as "unacceptable, intolerable and inadmissible acts of violence."

  • Ukraine's security agency said it has launched a nationwide "anti-terrorist" operation against "radicals" and "extremists" as opposition leaders urged their supporters to remain on the streets of Kiev.

    Oleksandr Yakimenko on Wednesday said the National Security Service and the Ukrainian Anti-Terrorist Centre was taking action to restore order in the country, claiming protesters had seized over 1,500 firearms in the past few days.

  • French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that the French, German and Polish foreign ministers will meet with the Ukrainian government and the opposition in Kiev on Thursday to assess the situation before meeting in Brussels for an EU meeting to decide whether to impose sanctions on the country.

  • Meanwhile, the Austria Press Agency quoted the country's foreign minister Sebastian Kurz as saying that the country supports targeted EU sanctions against Ukraine over the violence in Kiev.

    He added:

    "Europe must not look away when people are being shot in its own backyard... Violence must not go unpunished."

  • More on the international situation. Reuters says that the president of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barrosso, has telephoned the Ukraine president to condemn the use of force against protesters.

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that both sides need to find a way to compromise.

    "President Yanukovich has the opportunity to make a choice. The choice is between protecting the people that he serves ... and (the) choice for compromise and dialogue versus violence and mayhem.

    We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our friends in Europe and elsewhere in order to try to create the environment for compromise."

  • There are some stunning images coming from Kiev, as protesters remain on the streets. These are all from the Reuters news agency.

    St Michael's Golden-Domed cathedral is being used as a temporary shelter by protesters.
    A line of police face protesters near Independence Square 
    A man collects stones to use against police.
    Independence Square ablaze as protesters pick through the aftermath of clashes with police. 
    A protester mans a catapult behind barricades in Kiev. 
    Smoke rises from Independence Square, Kiev. 

    1 of 6

  • Canada shuts embassy
    The Globe and Mail newspaper reports that Canada has closed its embassy in Kiev and is threatening to bring in sanctions against Ukraine.

    A voice message at the Canadian embassy and its website both indicate the closure, but do not say when it took place. “The Embassy of Canada in Kiev is closed until further notice for security reasons.”

  • On the political front, Reuters has reported that Britain's PM David Cameron condemned the violence by all sides. Cameron said Yanukovich has a "a particular responsibility" to pull back government forces and de-escalate the situation in the country.

    And on the streets of Kiev, protesters have seized the central post office, standing their ground against the riot police, reported AP. 

  • 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

  • Here's a documentary on the history of Ukraine - and the seeds that have sown the current crisis, as told by our Witness programme.

  • Our latest video report from Ukraine.

  • The Associated Press reports that Ukraine's leader has replaced the head of army amid the escalating tension in Kiev.

    Yanukovich replaced the chief of the armed forces in a presidential decree, shortly after the acting Defense Minister said the army may take part in a nationwide anti-terrorist operation to restore order.
  • 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.
  • These photos by photojournalist Emeric Fohlen, capture the tension on Kiev's streets during the clashes on Tuesday night. 

    Emeric Fohlen/Al Jazeera 
  • On the army chief sacking:

    Zamana publicly disagreed with Yanukovich at the start of the month when the president first considered imposing a state of emergency in response to the wave of pro-EU protests.

    Zamana said on February 1 that "no one had the right to use the armed forces to restrict the rights of citizens" - a statement that won him wide praise in the protest movement.

  • The US president, Barack Obama, has spoken of the situation in Ukraine. Here's the text of a speech he made in Mexico, which he is currently visiting.

    Obama urged the Ukraine military to show restraint [Reuters] 

    The United States condemns in the strongest terms the violence that’s taking place. And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to ensure that that violence ends.

    But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.

    And I want to be very clear as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that we’re going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters 
    We’ve also said we expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful and we’ll be monitoring very closely the situation, recognising that with our European partners and the international community there will be consequences if people step over the line.

    And that includes making sure the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.

    So the United States will continue to engage with all sides in the dispute in Ukraine and ultimately our interest is to make sure the Ukrainian people can express their own desires and we believe a large majority of Ukrainians are interested in an integration with Europe and the commerce and cultural exchanges that are possible for them to expand opportunity and prosperity.

    But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future it is important the people themselves make those decisions and that’s what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.

  • The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is urging restraint by both sides in Ukraine.

    And the leaders of both Germany and France are calling the violence unacceptable.

    Also Speaking in Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry, called on Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich to stop the violence.

    Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor James Bays reports from Vienna.

  • Protesters protect themselves with shields from police water cannon at the barricades at Independence square in Kiev on February 19, 2014. [AFP]
  • Ukraine's president announces truce. Official website of President Viktor Yanukovich published this press release recently:

    President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych held a meeting with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Volodymyr Rybak and members of the Working Group on the Settlement of Political Crisis.

    The meeting was attended by Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Andriy Kliuyev, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Andriy Portnov, Acting Minister of Justice Olena Lukash and leaders of opposition parties Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko, Oleh Tiahnybok.

    Following the meeting, the parties declared:

    1. Truce

    2. Beginning of negotiations aimed at cessation of bloodshed and stabilization of the situation in the country for the sake of civil peace.

    Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reported live from Kiev that the announcement of the truce came as a surprise and in fact, many in the Independence Square do not now about it.
  • Andy Hunder, the Director of the Ukraine Institute in London, discusses raging crisis in Kiev and the ways out of it.

  • Euromaidan SOS, a Kiev activist group, says on its Facebook page that at least 50 people have gone missing from the Independence Square during the last two days. The group is trying to help relatives in their search for them.
  • A protester throws tyres to keep a barricade of flames between protesters and police at Independence square in Kiev on February 19 [AFP]

  • The United States imposed visa bans:

    "Today we moved to restrict visas to some 20 senior members of the Ukrainian government and other individuals we consider responsible for ordering human rights abuses related to political oppression in Ukraine," a senior US State Department official told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.
  • NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urges Ukraine's armed forces to stay out of the crisis there, according to Reuters.

    "I strongly urge the Ukrainian government to refrain from further violence. If the military intervenes against the opposition, Ukraine's ties with NATO will be seriously damaged."

  • Ukraine's former President Leonid Kuchma says the country "crossed that red line"

    "What we're witnessing in Ukraine now looks like a nightmare. Being in charge of the country for more than a decade, having faced numerous protests, I couldn't have even imagined such a scenario, not for a single moment, and even more – I wouldn't have ever let it happen. Ukraine is rich in neither gas nor oil, yet public peace and national reconciliation have always been our main resource," ex-president Kuchma told Interfax-Ukraine in a statement.

    However, "if a few weeks ago we were the only CIS country where there was no bloodshed in civil conflicts, the last few days have shown that we've crossed that red line," he said. "The farther the country goes beyond it, the harder it will be to go back," Kuchma said.

    "I'm addressing both authorities and opposition: Ukraine's future depends solely on you. Whether the civil conflict grows into a civil war or not, whether the split that has divided different regions turns into an abyss that might break Ukraine for good depends only on your awareness of how deep the threats of the present moment are," Kuchma said.

    "No one of really Ukrainian forces could be interested in what is happening now. Stop it! I urge all sides to immediately resume the dialogue, and I'm ready to do my best for this," he added.

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