Ukraine officials suspended over police force against protesters

Ukraine officials suspended over police force against protesters

KIEV - Agence France-Presse / Reuters
Ukraine officials suspended over police force against protesters

Anti-Yanukovych protesters defend their barricades in front of anti-riot police on Independence Square in Kiev, on Dec. 11. AFP photo

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Dec. 14 suspended his deputy security council chief and Kiev's mayor after prosecutors said they pressured police into using force against pro-EU protesters.

"The president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, suspended the deputy chief of the national security council, Volodymyr Sivkovich, and mayor Olexander Popov over their suspected involvement in a violation of rights" of protesters in Kiev on the night of November 29-30, a presidential statement said.

Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka separately told journalists that the two suspended officials "pressured Kiev's police chief to use violence" against the demonstrators that night.

Lavrov says provocateurs behind "hysteria" 

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukrainian demonstrators were overreacting to the country's policy swerve to Russia and criticised the West for excessive involvement in the protests in Kiev's Independence Square. 

Yanukovich's decision to spurn a trade and cooperation pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia has triggered weeks of unrest with protesters demanding dismissal of his government. 

Protesters are streaming into the capital to attend a mass opposition rally on Dec. 15, joining the thousands already camped out in Kiev's main square. 

The size and intensity of the protests suggest some external force has been stoking dissent, Lavrov told Russian news channel Rossiya 24. 

"There's no doubt that provocateurs are behind this. The fact that our Western partners have apparently lost touch with reality is a great sadness to me," he said. 

The outpouring of public anger is disproportionate, Russia's Lavrov said in an interview filmed during his trip to Tehran last week, but broadcast on Saturday. 

"It is astounding how the country is on the brink of hysteria due to a sovereign decision by the legitimate government of Ukraine," he said. 

"What did Yanukovich's government do? ... Maybe they announced they would build an atomic bomb? Or maybe they shot someone?" 

On Dec. 13 U.S. Senators issued a resolution calling for the United States to consider sanctions against Ukraine in case there is further violence against peaceful demonstrators. Two senators including John McCain, a leading Republican voice on foreign policy issues, also plan to attend Dec. 15's rally. 

Despite talks in Brussels by his government aimed at securing financial aid from the EU for his near-bankrupt country, Yanukovich appears on course to go to Moscow on Dec. 17 to tie up a trade agreement which the opposition fears could slam the door on integration with Europe.