KIEV, Ukraine, September 1 (UPI) – The head of the Ukrainian Radical Party announced on Tuesday that the party was leaving the coalition government, a day after violent clashes erupted between ultranationalists and riot police outside parliament. Three National Guards were killed.
Oleh Lyashko said his right-wing party opposes a constitutional amendment that seeks to give more autonomy to areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Lyashko also asked a national referendum on decentralization to be held in October, alongside local elections.
The Radical Party holds 21 votes in the parliamentary coalition of 302 seats.
On Monday, violent clashes erupted between nationalists and riot police outside Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada as lawmakers approved the amendment. In addition to the deaths of three soldiers, at least 130 people were injured.
Eighteen people were arrested in connection with the riots, including Ihor Humenyuk, who is suspected of throwing a grenade, who killed the soldiers.
“I am saddened both by the loss of life in Kiev yesterday and by the fact that this event draws international attention to Ukraine, rather than the relentless Russian assault and military occupation of Ukraine which continue endlessly, “Andrij Dobriansky, communications director for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, told the UPI on Tuesday.
“Parts of the radical fringe have cruelly profited from the understandable frustrations of the general population at the pace of reform; reforms for which members of Ukrainian civil society have died. It is clear that these radicals do not have the political support of the Ukrainian people, ”says Dobriansky.
Ukrainian President Petro Porohsenko lamented that “war has come to Kiev” and promised that all those injured in the grenade blast would receive full medical treatment. He also said that soldiers killed would be awarded posthumously a Medal of Courage.
Poroshenko last week met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, where he stressed that Russia must respect the Minsk agreements and immediately implement the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov blamed the chaos on Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok.
“Tyahnybok did not bring protesters to the Verkhovnaya Rada, Tyahnybok brought criminals who murdered and mutilated our soldiers”, Avakov wrote on Facebook. “I saw the video, the photographs, in which Mr. Tyahnybok stands right next to his supporters, with those who beat our guys. [The] the investigation will be thorough, and the punishment – I hope – inevitable. ”
Almost 7,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Kiev forces began. The violence mainly in the Donetsk region occurred just days after Russia annexed the semi-autonomous Crimean peninsula. While the two sides agreed last week to end the violence as schooling in the region begins, both sides have accused the other of breaking the truce.
Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic expressed concern on Monday’s violence when several journalists were injured.
“Even though this is not an incident specifically targeting journalists, I am concerned about the incident and call on the authorities to initiate a swift investigation into the case, as well as all previous cases. ‘attacks on journalists,’ she said.