Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation

Updated: 2014-02-17 11:17


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Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation

A bulldozer removes barricades at the site of recent clashes with riot police in Kiev February 16, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]


Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation
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Ukraine protesters end city hall occupation
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As Sunday's peaceful rally unfolded on Independence Square, attracting several thousand, young club-wielding masked men from the radical fringe of the protest movement were on patrol, looking for government agents known locally as "titushki".

A group of about 40 young men, wearing black balaclavas and carrying shields that announced they were from the 14th "self-defence" unit, marched through crowds gathered near the Dynamo Kiev football stadium, a frontline in the unrest.

All the same, tensions in the area abated, with riot police leaving the streets and protesters opening a passage for limited traffic to pass barricades and reach government headquarters and parliament.

Western governments have expressed fears of an escalation of conflict and breakdown of law and order unless Yanukovich meets opposition demands.

On Sunday, former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk repeated calls for constitutional changes that would strip Yanukovich of powers he has accumulated and enable an opposition government to be formed to lead the ex-Soviet republic to economic recovery.

After protesters departed Kiev's City Hall, which they had occupied since early December, Yatseniuk urged Ukraine's judicial authorities to live up to their amnesty promise:

"We want about 2,000 criminal cases to be dropped. If this does not happen, we will start a peaceful offensive."