After a brief respite in violence, at least 77 people including a number of police and journalists are reported to have been killed over the past few days in renewed violence in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. This period of hostility was prompted when police reportedly stormed anti‐government protest camps in Independence Square on 18 February.
The situation at present does not warrant a general evacuation, however, this could change and companies should be ready and prepared to move. Although not a specific target, foreign nationals may get caught up in collateral violence.
According to media and security reports, on several occasions Ukrainian riot police employed tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons in a series of violent clashes. Protesters responded by targeting the police lines with Molotov cocktails, improvised missiles and fireworks and forcing the security services from the Square.
In response, the Ukrainian authorities have blocked access to central Kiev, with key infrastructure including the main arterial roads and the metro system remaining closed. The situation remains tense in Independence Square where security forces continue to surround the main barricades and protestors remain firmly encamped.
After a night of tense talks between President Yanukovych, European ministers and members of the opposition movement, the announcement was made that a deal would be signed at midday local time. The parameters of the deal are not clear and its implications and effects on the persistent violence are yet to be assessed. Elements of the opposition movement have claimed they were not consulted ahead of the truce suggesting it may fail.
Key flashpoint areas remain Independence Square, City Hall, some high-profile government buildings and the streets in their vicinity. Tensions will remain high in the environs of Independence Square with further escalations and fatalities possible in the coming days.
The situation is unpredictable and renewed violence could be prompted by further eviction attempts, government provocations or the actions of more fundamentalist parts of the protest movement.
Beyond the Capital
Whilst the violence is unprecedented and marks a significant escalation to the recent levels of hostility seen in Kiev, the protests and their locations are consistent with the on-going opposition movement’s demonstrations in the past three months.
At present, it is unlikely that the violence will spread beyond Kiev and its existing hotspots in the city centre. The security services have established a series of checkpoints in an attempt to limit the number of activists entering the city and other regional centres.
However, regional administrative buildings may become targets of localised but limited protests if the security environment deteriorates further.
Sparked by Ukraine’s renewed economic association with Russia, the demonstrators continue to demand the resignation of President Yanukovych, constitutional reform and the transfer of legislative powers from the presidency to the parliament.
Despite some muted concessions from the government, violent demonstrations will persist whilst the impasse continues and no political settlement is reached.
Businesses should ensure that there are several means of viable communication with employees living and travelling in Ukraine. On top of this, they should rehearse their evacuation plan and ensure that assembly areas and embarkation points are clarified.
Picture source: Mstyslav Chernov