Europe

Ukraine media decry protest violence

Ukrainian newspapers showing headlines about protests in Kiev
Image caption Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya's headline (C) reads, "Eurobattle. What's next?"

Using strong images and strident editorials, Ukrainian media have been highlighting the descent into violence during the weekend's anti-government protests.

Some commentators bemoan what they see as the failure of opposition leaders to contain the situation, while others condemn "unjustified" police violence.

The unrest was triggered in November by President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a deal on closer EU ties.

"Eurobattle: What next?" asks popular pro-government daily Segodnya. A front-page photo shows flag-waving protesters on top of a bulldozer that was used to breach police lines. Segodnya says the rallies descended into a "mass bloody riot".

It criticises the opposition: "Having brought people to yesterday's rally, they failed to keep the situation under control."

"The situation abruptly spun out of control of opposition leaders," says the tabloid Vesti. "Provocateurs and extremists went to storm the presidential administration building. Who sparked the crisis and what will happen to the country?"

"Where were the opposition" during the "brutal dispersal" on Independence Square, asks the Ukrainian edition of Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. "MPs were all at home by that time. All of them!!! They came back only when the danger was over." The paper shows an image of riot police backing away from a chain-wielding man.

The authorities have "passed a point of no return", says business title Delovaya Stolitsa. "Events in Independence Square prompted an unprecedented reaction among millions of Ukrainians, which can be quelled only by new, harsher repression."

"A great country rises", declares the daily Kommersant Ukraina. The paper says the largest anti-government rallies in nine years took place in Kiev on 1 December, sparked by an "outburst of public indignation".

A photograph of a girl with the national flag painted on her cheeks and blood streaming down her face dominates the front page of opposition weekly Vecherniye Vesti.

The paper urges the protesters to hold out: "At midday on 1 December, a million Ukrainians took to the streets... We do not know if a state of emergency will be introduced, if troops will be deployed. Just take care and stay strong! And so we will win!"

'History being made'

The main TV stations, including state TV, have made no attempt to downplay the scale of the demonstrations. Rolling news channel 5 Kanal continues to carry exhaustive and near-continuous coverage.

Top privately-owned network Inter TV, which usually toes the government line, has been broadly sympathetic towards the protesters. Inter is co-owned by presidential administration head Serhiy Lyovochkin, who has reportedly tendered his resignation.

"History is being made in Kiev today," an Inter presenter declared on Sunday evening. "There is a feeling we have woken up in a different country."

He condemned the violent dispersal of protests as "unprovoked and unjustified violence", and "senseless, inexplicable cruelty" on the part of the police.

State-owned UT1 TV regretted the casualties among the protesters and police.

Ukrayina TV, owned by a pro-Yanukovych tycoon, headlined its special coverage "The Rebellion of Millions". It described the protests as "the largest and most dramatic in Ukrainian history". The TV carried opposition and government views and said the protests "were not peaceful everywhere".

A reporter on the popular private station ICTV spoke about "unprecedented events" in Kiev and described the protests as "a human sea". One ICTV report openly criticised riot police for being heavy-handed.

"The whole of Ukraine rose up today," declared a presenter on popular 1+1 TV on Sunday evening. "Let's hope a bloody scenario is not repeated." Eurovision Song Contest winner Ruslana, an active participant in the pro-EU protests, offered eyewitness accounts of the police action.

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