Riot police crack down on Ukraine protests

1386592813000-AP-Ukraine-ProtestPro-European Union protesters occupying Kiev’s city administration building said Monday that armed riot police had stormed the offices of the main opposition political party in downtown Kiev.

Meanwhile, scores of riot police officers began dismantling barricades set up by protesters more than a week ago to block off government buildings. Protesters had been given a Tuesday deadline to leave.

The crackdown comes after hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of the Ukrainian capital and other cities Sunday. It was the latest in a three-week-long series of so-called EuroMaidan protests sparked when President Viktor Yanukovych and his government refused to sign a long-expected pact with the 28-nation EU.

The protests started as a demand for closer ties with the EU and fewer with Russia but morphed into a more general anti-government movement after violent clashes with riot police late last month. The protesters are calling for the resignation of Yanukovych and his cabinet of ministers, and for the criminal prosecution of the police officers and officials responsible for the violent crackdown.

On Monday, Fatherland Party official Ostap Semerak told the Associated Press that troops broke into the party’s headquarters and were walking along its corridors while others were climbing in through the windows. Fatherland is the party led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed since 2011 over a controversial gas contract with Russia. Semerak said the troopers confiscated some computer equipment and left.

The Freedom Party made similar claims, The Washington Post reported. A city police spokesman told the BBC that no actions had been taken by police officers at either party’s headquarters; state security officials declined comment.

The main protests initially were centered in Independence Square. However, protesters in recent days constructed barricades to block the nearby streets leading to the main government buildings, including the president’s administration building, the cabinet of ministers, and the parliament.

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