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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine To Prosecute Anti-Kuchma Opposition

By KIEV - Ukrainian authorities said Monday they planned to prosecute the opposition leaders behind mass rallies three days ago which turned violent, injuring scores of demonstrators and police.

"We have launched a criminal case under Article 71 of Ukraine's criminal code -- mass disturbances. We are investigating it now," Olexander Skrypnik, spokesman for the SBU security service, told Reuters.

Up to 10,000 people marched through central Kiev on Friday in the largest demonstration yet demanding President Leonid Kuchma resign over the scandal of a murdered journalist.

Another protest is planned for Wednesday at the presidential administration building, the site of Friday's most violent clashes. Some 100 protesters hurled bricks, bottles and wooden sticks at police, who lashed out with batons and used teargas.

By Wednesday, however, Kuchma is expected to be on vacation in the Crimea around 800 km south of the capital.

Interior ministry officials said police detained 206 people after Friday's clashes. Of those, 67 had been freed, 52 would be held for 15 days and 87 were awaiting a court hearing.

Volodymyr Prystaiko, head of investigation at the SBU, the successor to the former Soviet Union's KGB, said authorities wanted to find the main organisers.

"We investigators will certainly look into who instigated (the clashes), who paid people who came from different cities," Prystaiko told state television.

"I would like those who were behind know we will definitely get to them," he said.

"We have questioned 150 people, gathered sticks and metal rods and other so-called material evidence," said Prystaiko.

He said opposition members could face charges of committing crimes against the state.


Ukraine's opposition parties denounced the arrests and violence, saying the authorities were trying to threaten the rest of the population.

Leaders of the Forum for National Salvation, the main force behind the anti-Kuchma protests, said they would stage new rallies to press on with their campaign to oust the president.

Taras Stetskiv, nationalist parliamentarian and member of the forum, said the next demonstration would take place on Wednesday. At the same time, parliament will hear reports from the head of the SBU and the interior minister on the clashes. "In two or three weeks we will stage a mass rally which will force the authorities to tremble and there we will publish our charges against this regime and president," said Stetskiv.

The opposition hoped to attract up to 100,000 people to the rally, Stetskiv said.

The protests were sparked by the disappearance last September of Internet reporter Georgiy Gongadze, who was critical of Kuchma and some top businessmen. His decapitated corpse was found outside Kiev last November.

Opposition politicians published tapes on which a voice similiar to Kuchma's gave orders to "deal with" the reporter. Kuchma denies any involvement in the case and says he is determined to remain in office.

Kuchma has likened the demonstrators to Nazis, adding authorities would deal decisively with similar protests.