A Ukrainian national guardsman has been killed, and a further 90 others wounded, following clashes, including throwing of grenades, during protests, in Ukraine.
A Ukrainian national guardsman was killed and nearly 90 others wounded by grenades hurled from a crowd of nationalist protesters on Monday as they were guarding parliament where lawmakers backed giving more autonomy to rebel-held areas.
The violence, which the government blamed on the main nationalist party, and division in the pro-Western camp in parliament suggested President Petro Poroshenko will struggle to push through key parts of a faltering peace agreement reached in February for eastern Ukraine.
Poroshenko sprang to the defence of the constitutional reforms following the clashes outside parliament, where deputies loyal to him managed to push through a first reading of a “decentralisation” draft law – but only in the face of strong criticism from some of his political allies.
In a message to the nation, he said that if parliament had not passed the draft, in line with Kiev’s commitments at the peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, Ukraine would have been in danger of losing the support of its Western allies.
“There would have been a real possibility of us being left alone with the aggressor,” he said.
The violence came after 265 deputies voted in favour of the bill, 39 more than that required to pass, at a boisterous session with many deputies shouting “Shame!” and rhythmically beating parliamentary benches.
Opponents of the bill, which supports a law giving certain self-management rights to separatists controlling parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, said it played into Russia’s hands and would lead ultimately to Ukraine losing control in the east.
They objected to the separate legislation on local self-governance which they fear will give the separatists the right to form their own courts and militia and create a special relationship with Russia.
It would allow Russian to be the chosen language of people living in these regions and grant amnesty to separatists who had previously taken part in military action against Ukrainian forces.