Old divisions resurface in Ukraine as government supporters and opponents clash

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Old divisions resurface in Ukraine as government supporters and opponents clash

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Supporters and opponents of the Ukrainian government have clashed in Kiev as both sides held rival demonstrations. Police intervened as scuffles broke out close to the main opposition rally.

Both sides have been holding demonstrations across Ukraine. This time many people had come to the capital to protest over the economy: the cost of living has soared as pay has failed to keep up with inflation.

But politics runs alongside economic concerns. The opposition again demanded the release of jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

They also accuse the ruling party of President Yanukovich of deliberately putting off elections – including for the mayor of Kiev.

“We press on the government to start elections as soon as possible, but look, the Party of Regions is just scared about the elections because they fully realise that they will lose and they are going to fail. And the same will happen with the presidential elections. We need the unity of the opposition forces in order to reach the target,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of United Opposition.

The governing party has been on the counter-attack, accusing nationalist opponents from Svoboda in particular of fascism – charges it denies, despite links with various European far-right parties.

For one prominent figure on the government side, there is good reason to worry:

“When people are not allowed to speak other languages, when national holidays are cancelled, when monuments are destroyed, whether we like them or not, I think those are the signs of fascism,” said Serhiy Tigipko, a Party of Regions MP .

The removal of statues of former Soviet leaders Lenin and Stalin has aroused the hostility of many Party of Regions supporters who naturally tilt towards Russia and are nostalgic for Soviet times.

They are also hostile to the critical stance of Ukrainian nationalists towards current Russian policy.