Spot Report by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM): Protest outside national Parliament in Kyiv turns violent
On 31 August beginning at 09:00hrs, the SMM monitored protests in front of the national Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) building in Kyiv. Some 3,000 persons (male and female of all ages) carrying “Svoboda”, “Radical Party” and “Ukrop” flags were protesting against constitutional amendments that were being voted on inside the Parliament. The event was initially peaceful and orderly with no signs of unrest. During both the morning and afternoon, the building was heavily secured by a ring of riot police (approx. 1,000) and in addition national guards (approx. 1,000) with anti-riot equipment. Former Members of Parliament and current leaders of “Svoboda” and “Radical Party” were visible in the crowd of protesters.
At approximately 13:00hrs, the protestors grew agitated after they learned the constitutional amendments had been passed. They started to burn tires and wood in front of the main entrance and confronted the servicemen (physically with clubs and verbally) that were cordoning the building with full anti-riot gear. The servicemen held their lines against the surging protestors using their batons and shields. At least 50 front row protestors were involved in the clashes with the servicemen. Some were armed with chains and some including women with batons. In addition, the SMM observed around 20 male and female protestors covering their faces, some of them wearing balaclavas. Among all the protestors, around 150 protestors were dressed in camouflage, among them individuals with “Legion of Svoboda”, “Donbas”, “Pravyi Sektor”, “Tornado” and “Sich” patches.
The SMM observed tear gas canisters and smoke bombs being thrown by both servicemen and back row protestors causing small explosions. Behind the servicemen cordon, journalists were filming the protests. At 13:45hrs the SMM heard a very loud explosion assessed to have been a grenade explosion. After the explosion, the SMM observed wounded servicemen bleeding heavily and some protestors with less serious injuries. The SMM observed ambulances arriving at the scene behind the cordon, and at least eight servicemen being carried towards them. The scene was chaotic.
The press office of the main department of the Ministry of Interior in Kyiv Municipality, a national guard press officer and the hospital of the Ministry of Interior confirmed that approximately120 servicemen were injured, four of them seriously, and that one had died. A representative of the Hospital of the Ministry of Defence stated to the SMM (by phone) at 18:30hrs that 24 National Guard soldiers and Police Officers plus one injured civilian are hospitalised.
At the time of writing the report, SMM was still at the scene and observed that there were only 50 protesters left.