Protests turned violent outside of the Ukrainian parliament today as lawmakers considered granting special status to the separatist regions in East Ukraine as required by the Minsk agreement negotiated between Germany, France, Russia, and Kiev. According to the Ukrainian government, MPs gave initial approval to the proposal; however, the deal’s final passage is far from assured.
Media reports blamed Ukrainian nationalists for the violence as individuals said to belong to the Svoboda (Freedom) Party and the populist Radical Party clashed with police. A single protester threw a grenade which severed the leg of a policeman. One person died and upwards of 100 were injured in the melee, which lasted several hours as the violence fluctuated.
Svoboda Party officials denied the allegations, saying that individuals wearing Svoboda T-shirts threw the explosive device and instigated the violence, but were actually instigators hired by Russian intelligence to foment unrest in their adversary’s capital. Russian lawmakers were in fact quick to declare that Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko could not control the situation in Kyiv, as nationalist fight the government for power and attempt to derail the peace process.
Kiev has been fighting a surge in nationalist sentiment opposed to cementing pro-Russian separatist power in the Donetsk People’s Republic, or East Ukraine. The Poroshenko government has removed volunteer units, such as the Azov Battalion, from the front lines around Mariupol and others front-line cities in the East as Kyiv attempts to reduce their power.
After an agreement was announced last week which allowed Kiev to restructure its debt with international creditors, Ukraine removed a key impediment to a stronger economy. It is possible that interests against that improvement could be attempting to further destabilize the central government and make it harder to move towards the West, an outcome Russia abhors.