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Peaceful protests turn deadly in Kiev

By Ana Robakidze
Thursday, February 20
Around 25 people have died in Kiev and several hundred people were treated for injuries after violent clashes took place between anti-government protesters and police.

The protests, which broke out after the Ukrainian government suspended negotiations with the European Union and refused to sign the Association Agreement in favor of stronger ties with Russia have turned against President Viktor Yanukovych.

February 18th turned out to be the bloodiest day in the last two months of protests in Kiev. Ukrainian lawmakers from the opposition parties complained that they were not given a chance to introduce the proposed constitutional changes to reduce the powers of the president, and clashes erupted outside the parliament building. Fighting spread to surrounding streets and police launched the first attack on Independence Square (Maidan) on Tuesday evening.

The protesters tried to hold their defense lines, burned tires on the barricades and used stones and petrol bombs. The police replied with tear gas.

The crisis in Ukraine was strongly condemned by the Georgian government. President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili said the situation in Ukraine is alarming and Yanukovich has to stop the violence.

“I would like to express my deepest concern over the latest developments in Ukraine. Many have died and hundreds were wounded as a result of these developments. I would like to express my condolences to the families of the victims...I want to call on my Ukrainian counterpart to bring all efforts to stop the violence and start a dialogue with the opposition. I share the position of the European leaders. The situation should be de-escalated,” Margvelashvili said.

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry released an official statement saying that it “fully shares the calls of the international community towards the Ukrainian government on taking all the proper measures for parties to return to negotiating table and not to escalate the ongoing processes into large-scale civil confrontation.“

The ministry expressed its condolences to the families of the victims, including the family of Georgian citizen Zurab Khurtsia, who was among the dead in Kiev. Georgian ambassador in Ukraine, Mikheil Ukleba said that there was no sign of violence found on the man’s body. The Georgian citizen was found dead in the center of Kiev, where he lived for the last two years.

“We express our condolences to the families of the victims, a Georgian citizen among them, and of those many more injured. It is with the great distress that we follow these processes, which are totally incompatible with democracy, fundamental human rights and European values,” the statement says.

“The tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, which has caused a large number of casualties, is a tragedy for us too,“ Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said on February 19th, stressing he joins the calls from the democratic world to stop the violence and the parties to find ways out of the current crisis through peaceful means.

“I do not lose hope that the Ukrainian government and the people will show wisdom in this difficult moment and will not let more tragic developments unfold,” the PM said in his statement.

One of the leaders of United National Movement (UNM) Giga Bokeria said on February 18th that this fight of the Ukrainian people is directly related to Georgia. Bokeria joined the rally held by the group of Georgian citizens and leaders of the UNM to express their solidarity to Ukrainians. The rally took place late at nigh outside the former parliament building in the center of Tbilisi when the news about the clashes in the centre of Kiev became public.