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Ukraine Justice Minister Threatens State of Emergency as Protests Spread

Ukraine Justice Minister Threatens State of Emergency as Protests Spread

Protests in Ukraine spread to the pro-Russian east while Justice Minister Olena Lukash threatened a call for a state of emergency. The United Nations said they will send an envoy to help facilitate talks between the two sides.

The majority of the protests are in Kiev, the capitol, and the west. However, there are now reports of protests in the east, where Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovych receives support. Protests occurred in Russian-speaking cities Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, and Luhanks.

Video footage from Dnipopetrovsk and Zaporizhia showed police teaming up with civilian auxiliaries – who protesters call “Titushki” – to crush the protests in violent street scenes.

Protests also broke out in the southern port of Odessa.

On Sunday, the protesters took over the Ministry of Justice without any resistance. As a result, Lukash said she would demand a state of emergency unless the protesters left. The government said the request was not on the agenda.

But Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara told reporters Monday: “Today we are not considering the introduction of a state of emergency. Today, this measure is not on the table.”

The protests started in late November after Yanukovych turned down a trade deal with the European Union (EU) in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia. The EU is still watching the protests and expressed concern with Lukash’s threats.

“I am alarmed by reports that the government is planning to declare a state of emergency,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

She stated that such a move by Ukrainian authorities would create “a further downward spiral” that would “benefit no one.”

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Ukraine the organization is ready to send in a special envoy. Yanukovych’s press service said Ki-moon hopes the two sides will continue dialogue.

Yanukovych reached out to the opposition leaders and once again offered Fatherland leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the position of prime minister, but he turned it down. The opposition demands Yanukovych resign and the country hold early elections. Parliament will meet for a special session on Tuesday to discuss and debate the concessions Yanukovych proposed, including the repeal of the demonstration laws. The session is at the same time as a meeting between the EU and Russia, which is expected to be tense because of the protests.

In a statement on Monday, the European Union stressed that an end to human rights violations by the government “was a prerequisite for the restoration of trust”.

The European Union’s enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele was returning to Ukraine on Monday for more talks just three days after his last meeting with Yanukovych, the commission said.

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