Regional rebellion gridlocks Ukraine local government

26th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

A widening local rebellion against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's authority has effectively blocked regional administrations in 13 of the former Soviet republic's 25 provinces.

Opposition protesters are blockading local government offices in four cities and have occupied official buildings in nine more, often after heavy clashes with riot police defending the offices of the Yanukovych-appointed governors.

While the insurgencies are concentrated in the more anti-Yanukovych western parts of Ukraine, there have also been occupations in central regions of the country and there have been protests in virtually every major regional centre.

Thousands of protesters have massed outside the regional administration in Zaporizhya defended by hundreds of riot police, television images showed.

In Transcarpathia, hundreds have surrounded the regional government and are putting up barricades, preventing officials from going to work.

In Dniepropetrovsk, once a pro-Yanukovych stronghold, hundreds of protesters were trying to break through into the local government building, as police doused them with freezing water.

Three police officers were reported injured.

In Sumi in northeast Ukraine, hundreds of activists are picketing outside the regional government after occupying the regional parliament.

Hundreds of protesters led by a "komandant" have occupied the regional administration building and built barricades in Lviv, the main city in western Ukraine, threatening to seize more official buildings if opposition demands are not met.

The local governor last week signed a letter of resignation but later said he had been pressured by protesters to do so. In any case, his access to the building is barred and the pro-opposition regional parliament is now de facto in charge.

There were clashes in three more regions, Chernivtsy, Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopyl, before protesters managed to break through and occupy the buildings.

In Ivano-Frankivsk last week, the police withdrew after protester numbers swelled to 10,000 people.

In Chernivtsi, a dozen activists were injured.

Protesters have also occupied the regional administration building in Volyn, declaring a "people's parliament" and setting up a "municipal police". The local governor knelt down in front of the protesters, asking them to avoid bloodshed.

In Rivne, the occupation was peaceful and there are currently some 300 protesters in the building.

The local governor, who is on holiday, has refused to step down but all his deputies have resigned.

In Khmelnitsky, protesters laid a funeral wreath outside the home of the local governor, who has likewise resisted demands for his resignation.

Protesters in Vinnitsa have set up a field kitchen on the ground floor of the regional administration and institutional offices in Poltava were also overrun over the weekend.

There have also been anti-Yanukovch protests in Zhitomir, Cherkassy, Odessa, Nikolayev, Lugansk, Chernigiv, Kharkiv and Kirovograd.

While the capital Kiev has been the epicentre of the protest movement, which has overrun much of the city centre, the regional administration has been left untouched and continues as normal.

There has also been no sign of protest so far in the Black Sea areas of Kherson and Crimea, officially an autonomous republic of Ukraine.

© 2014 AFP

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