Outbreak of violence is test for Ukrainian government, Lithuanian foreign minister says

According to the minister, the Ukrainian parliament’s initial approval of the constitutional amendments giving greater autonomy to the eastern separatist regions shows that “the Ukrainian leadership is meeting its commitments and is doing so under difficult conditions”.

Clashes between police and nationalist protesters erupted in Kiev during the deliberation of these amendments, leading to the death of one Ukrainian National Guard soldier. Dozens of people were also injured.

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“We condemn this attack and express our condolences to the families of the killed soldier and those injured. It’ a huge test and we should once again show our support to the Ukrainian leadership. I believe it will not take Ukraine off the path to peace, at the same time making demands that Ukraine’s sovereignty be respected,” the Lithuanian foreign ministry told BNS on Tuesday.

The Monday clashes were the largest incident since the Euromaidan revolution in the Ukrainian capital early last year when the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee and later Moscow-supported separatists sparked a rebellion in the east of the country.

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Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has blamed the nationalist party Svoboda (Freedom) for the Monday unrest, saying that a member of the party’s paramilitary wing is among detained people, accused of throwing a real grenade.

Laurynas Kasčiūnas of the Vilnius-based Eastern European Studies Centre believes the clashes outside the Ukrainian parliament are unlikely to evolve into mass protests. In his opinion, the protesters outside the Rada included “a small part of the society who stood for the idea”, accusing the Ukrainian government of connivance at Russia.

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“Those who stood outside the Rada, fought in the front lines and were the first to stop Russia’s aggression last year, who took part the Maidan protests, naturally, they have a different approach. They believe that it’s connivance to some extend and the movement towards a certain Russian federalization model,” Kasčiūnas told BNS on Tuesday.

In his words, Ukraine needs the constitutional amendments on decentralization to “throw the ball to the Russian side” for Moscow not to be able to accuse Kiev of failure to implement the Minsk agreements.

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The decentralization reforms are part of the Minsk truce conditions reached in February through the mediation of Germany and France.

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