Ukrainian opposition leader Yuri Lutsenko badly hurt in Kiev protest
Ukraine's former interior minister and current opposition leader Yuri Lutsenko was under intensive care in hospital yesterday after being beaten in fresh clashes between pro-EU demonstrators and club-wielding police.
A few hundred nationalist demonstrators protested late on Friday outside a Kiev court that had sentenced three men to six years in prison for allegedly plotting to blow up a statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin near the city's main airport in 2011.
Ukrainian television showed protesters being carried by stretcher to an ambulance. City authorities said 17 opposition members had been injured and that 11 were admitted to hospital.
The interior ministry said that anti-riot troops began firing tear gas and making arrests only after being pelted with bottles by protesters who were trying to block police vans as the three convicts were being led out of the courthouse, adding that 20 of its officers had been injured.
Opposition news sites published images of Lutsenko with his head bandaged and a large patch over his right eye. Lutsenko's wife, Irina, said her husband had suffered a concussion and head injuries after being attacked by police while trying to break up violence.
"He has been placed in intensive care. They are going to keep him under observation," she told Ukraine's opposition Hromadske television channel.
Lutsenko spokeswoman Larisa Sargan said the opposition leader lost consciousness several times on his way to hospital. "He received about 10 blows to the head," she told Kiev's Segodnya daily.
Ukrainian nationalists have been a force behind anti-government protests that erupted in November after President Viktor Yanukovych ditched a trade agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.
The rallies were fanned further by anger over violence that broke out when hundreds of officers beat dozens of demonstrators while trying to clear Kiev's iconic Independence Square on November 30.
The latest outbreak of violence in Kiev drew no immediate response from Yanukovych or his government members.