Ukraine justice minister warns of state of emergency

Jan. 27, 2014 at 1:48 PM
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KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Ukraine's justice minister warned a state of emergency would be called if anti-government protesters occupying her ministry don't leave.

In a televised statement, Olena Lukash said she would ask the National Security and Defense Council to introduce the measure after anti-government protesters took control of the building Kiev Sunday night as protests against President Viktor Yanukovych and his administration spread across the country, CNN reported.

Reports indicate protesters also seized headquarters in other towns, CNN said.

If declared, a state of emergency could potentially allow authorities to impose curfews and give them extra powers of detention.

CNN reported smoke visible above a square in Kiev, where thousands of demonstrators have gathered despite freezing weather, establishing makeshift barricades and lobbing gasoline bombs at police.

The Ukrainian weekly newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli reported a secret resolution to greatly increase the number of riot police was adopted. The newspaper said the number in two special units will increase to 30,000 officers who would be given more power.

Zerkalo Nedeli also reported the Justice Ministry was ordered to legalize the creation of civic patrols to protect the streets.

Zerkalo Nedeli said Cabinet ministers were preparing documents concerning the introduction of martial law.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko Saturday rejected a concessions package from the government, including an offer by Yanukovych of government posts to Klitschko and the leader of an opposing party.

In an open letter, jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- an opponent of Yanukovych jailed on a corruption conviction -- urged opposition leaders to reject Yankovych's "humiliating conditions proposed by the government," the Kiev Post reported

"I beg you, go ahead, do not stop and do not reduce your hitting force on power," she said. "If you stop for a moment, the country will be held hostage by the tyranny in just a moment for many years."

Ukraine's parliament will meet in special session Tuesday.

The protests began in November against Yanukovych's decision to reject a planned trade deal with the European Union and turn toward Russia instead.

Yanukovych and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke Monday by phone, discussing the situation in Ukraine, the Post said. During the call, the Post said Yanukovych stressed the importance of negotiating to find a solution to the political crisis and Ban emphasized the need for a peaceful settlement.

Foreign leaders also have voiced concern about the escalation of violence

"The situation is not just tense; it is really serious. The next few days could decide in what direction Ukraine is going to take its future," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement. "Refrain from violence and make every effort to seek a political solution -- that, I believe, is what needs to be done at this time."

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