Acting on a court order and under the cloak of night, after 1 a.m. on Dec. 11 thousands of police and National Guard troops gained ground as they steadily advanced on Independence Square, taking down barricades, and arresting at least 10 protesters along the way.
Police say some have been released already, but wouldn’t specify how many. However, the Kyiv Post witnessed police clubbing protesters, including one being repeatedly beaten with a club wearing a Batkivshchyna party jacket.
The European Union’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton who spent time on the square just hours before after holding a 3.5-hour meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych, was appalled at the police action.
“I’m still in Kyiv. I was among you on Maidan in the evening and was impressed by the determination of Ukrainians demonstrating for a European perspective of the country,” she said in a statement. “Some hours later I observe with sadness that police uses force to remove peaceful people from the center of Kyiv. The authorities didn’t need to act under the coverage of night to engage with the society by using police. Dialogue with political forces and society and use of arguments is always better than the argument of force.”
The U.S. State Department issued a scathing statement denouncing the police action:
“The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Square with riot police…and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity, read the statement. “This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.”
After 2 a.m. police managed to divide the huge encampment of protesters into three sections, sealing off the main trade union building from the rest of Independence Square where some 250 protesters were holed up inside bracing for an attack at any moment. After 3 a.m. some 200 National Guardsmen surrounded City Hall. Protesters used a fire hose to spray water on the steps and let it freeze as lights were shut off inside.
Meanwhile, sometime around 4 a.m. municipal workers dressed in orange vests started to dismantle the barricade on Institutska Street, which intersects Khreshchatyk Street.
Later, police said 10 of their own were injured in clashes with protesters.
After 9 a.m. three buses of riot police arrived in front of City Hall and were soon surrounded by some 2,000 protesters who shouted, “Shame!” Some 40 minutes later they disengaged and left the scene.
The two subway stations nearest Independence Square – Maidan Nezalezhnosti and Khreshchatyk – have been closed for entry and exit since the subway opened this morning at 5:30 a.m.