Ukraine minister threatens protesters with state of emergency

Ukraine minister threatens protesters with state of emergency

KIEV - Agence France-Presse
Ukraine minister threatens protesters with state of emergency

barricade made with sacks filled with snow is seen along a street at the entrance of the Ministry of Justice in central Kiev Jan. 27. REUTERS photo

Ukraine's Justice Minister Olena Lukash on Jan. 27 warned she could call for a state of emergency after radical protesters seized her ministry in the centre of Kiev.

Lukash, who is a participant in negotiations between the opposition and President Viktor Yanukovych aimed at finding a solution to the standoff, told Ukrainian television she would ask for the talks to be broken off if the building was not freed.

Dozens of radical protesters had forced their way into the ministry late Jan. 27 past only a handful of guards who offered no resistance. More protesters then rapidly came to the scene to build a barricade outside several metres high using sandbags filled with snow and rubbish containers, an AFP correspondent said.

"I will be forced to ask the president of Ukraine to stop the talks if the building is not freed immediately and negotiators are not given a chance to find a peaceful solution to the conflict," Lukash told the Inter channel.

If the protesters do not vacate the building, Lukash said she would also approach Ukraine's national security council with "a demand to discuss imposing a state of emergency in this country." The radical activists, from a group named Spilna Sprava (The Right Deed), broke windows on the building and destroyed its official sign.

Lukash said they had sprayed water inside in freezing temperatures, "turning it into a veritable ice rink."

The Interfax-Ukraine news agency said opposition leader and former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who is involved in the negotiations with the president, had visited the scene overnight and asked the protesters to leave, but to no avail.

Police have opened a criminal investigation into the seizure of a state building. The presidency has offered the opposition a range of concessions, including a change in the constitution and the post of prime minister, to end the crisis.

According to officials, three people have already been shot dead in clashes with police forces in the last week although activists say the toll is six.