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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Opposition Demands Release of Jailed Protesters

KIEV -- An opposition party called for the release of 10 jailed protesters Thursday, three days after tens of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to demand President Leonid Kuchma's ouster. Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said 10 protesters remained in jail after riot police stormed the protesters' tent camp outside the president's office before dawn Tuesday, following large protests Monday.

Police reported detaining 64 protesters who they said refused to obey a court decision banning protests in downtown Kiev. Under Ukrainian law, police can jail people for up to 10 days for disturbing the peace or obstructing police work.

On Wednesday, Kiev's Appeals Court ordered police to free the protesters. But nine people remain jailed on criminal charges of blocking key transport routes, opposition lawmaker Stepan Khmara said. If found guilty, the protesters could face up to 12 years in prison.

A 10th protester is expected to stay in jail for five days for offending a judge, he added.

Khmara, who was in one of the tents with protesters, said police stormed the camp without warning. He denied earlier reports that court representatives came first to announce the court's decision.

"We were removed, encircled and beaten," Khmara said.

This week's demonstrations were the biggest since Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union 11 years ago. Supporters of opposition groups from Communists to pro-Western reformers vowed to occupy the area around Kuchma's office until he steps down.

Kuchma, traveling in the southern city of Odessa, criticized the protests Thursday.

"When they take to the streets with ultimatums, I cannot comprehend that," his press service quoted him as saying. "But we all are learning democracy, and I am sure that everything in our house will be all right."