KIEV, Ukraine, Sept. 1 (UPI) — The leader of Ukraine’s Radical Party announced Tuesday the party is quitting the coalition government, a day after violent clashes erupted between ultranationalists and riot police outside the parliament building. Three national guardsmen were killed.
Oleh Lyashko said his right-wing party opposes a constitutional amendment that aims to give more autonomy to areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Lyashko also called for a national referendum on decentralization to be held in October, along with 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, Verkhovna Rada as lawmakers were approving the amendment. In addition to the deaths of three soldiers, at least 130 people were injured.
Eighteen people were detained in connection with the riots, including Ihor Humenyuk, who is suspected of throwing a grenade, which killed the soldiers.
“I’m saddened at both the loss of life in Kiev yesterday, and that this event is what gets international attention on Ukraine, rather than the unceasing Russian assault and military occupation of Ukraine which continues without end,” Andrij Dobriansky, director of communications for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, told UPI on Tuesday.
“Parts of the radical fringe have cruelly preyed on the general population’s understandable frustrations at the pace of reform; reforms for which members of Ukraine’s civil society died. It is clear that these radicals do not have the political backing from the people of Ukraine,” Dobriansky said.
Ukrainian President Petro Porohsenko lamented that “war had come to Kiev,” and vowed that all who had been injured in the grenade blast would receive full medical care. He also said the servicemen killed would be posthumously awarded a medal of courage.
Poroshenko met last week with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels where he stressed that Russia needs to abide by the Minsk agreements and to immediately implement the cease-fire in east Ukraine.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov blamed the chaos on Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok.
“Tyahnybok didn’t 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 is located directly next to his supporters, together with those who beat our guys. [The] investigation will be thorough, and the punishment – I hope – inescapable.”
Nearly 7,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since the conflict began between pro-Russian separatists and Kiev forces. The violence largely in the Donetsk region occurred just days after Russia annexed the semi-autonomous peninsula of Crimea. While the two sides agreed last week to halt violence as school in the region is beginning, both sides accused the other of breaking the truce.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic expressed her concern over Monday’s violence as several journalists were injured.
“Even though this is not an incident targeting journalists specifically, I am concerned with the incident and I am calling on the authorities for a swift investigation into the case, as well as all previous cases of attacks against journalists,” she said.