Protesters opposed to evacuees returning to Ukraine from Coronavirus-hit China clashed with police Thursday night, leaving Ukraine’s Prime Minister warning that further unrest may follow.
Locals in Novi Sanzhary, Ukraine built barricades and burnt tyres after they discovered a local army hospital had been selected by the government to host 70 Ukranian nationals and foreigners flown back from China for a two-week quarantine.
As the coach-loads of evacuees approached the area after dark on Thursday night, counter-protesters hurled rocks at the vehicles and clashed with riot police who had been deployed to the town. Ukranian news agency UNIAN reported that “over ten” police officers were injured in the clashes.
It took several hours for the coaches to move through the disturbance. By the end, 24 protesters were detained by police over the violence. By Friday morning hundreds of soldiers had been deployed to the area to keep the peace.
Ukranian Prime Minister Oleskiy Honcharuk condemned the violence in Parliament and blamed misinformation leading locals to feel threatened by the presence of evacuees at a military hospital in their town. He said further “provocations” may take place, allegedly intending to “create panic, undermine trust of the people, sow discord among us.”
Police on the ground appeared to confirm that the protest had been driven by provocateurs, with police revealing of the 24 people detained for violent disorder, 16 were not local to the region.
Nevertheless, British newspaper The Guardian reports the Novi Sanzhary council remained behind the protest, pointing out that the settlement’s sewage system was shared with the quarantine hospital and they felt locals were being put at risk. A statement from Novi Sanzhary said: “We can’t allow putting the health and life of local residents at risk, and demand that top officials take urgent moves to prevent people from China from being put here.”
Coronavirus has grabbed headlines worldwide since emerging from Wuhan city, China and spreading to several nations worldwide. While fatalities outside of China have proven rare, over 2,200 are known to have died in the outbreak so far worldwide.