This week the anti-government protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev turned violent after new anti-protest laws came into force, resulting in hundreds of injuries and three casualties. On Sunday, the new laws brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets. In an attempt to reach the Ukrainian parliament, hundreds of radical activists started storming a police cordon, attacking riot police with sticks and chains.
On Wednesday, violence disrupted again between the police and activists after the police had entered a protest camp with the aim to dismantle it. This resulted in the first three casualties.
Both the government and some little-known far-right groups have been blamed for the violence, however, the Prime Minister Mykola Azarov denies that the police is responsible for the deaths, claiming that they were not carrying live ammunition.
European Union leaders expressed shock at the deaths and called for both sides to halt the violence. Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU Commission, said that ‘if there is a systematic violation of human rights, including shooting at peaceful demonstrators or serious attacks to the basic freedoms, […] we have to rethink our relationship with Ukraine.’
Furthermore, the U.S. strongly criticised the escalating situation, as a US state department spokeswoman said that the ‘increased tensions in Ukraine are a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government’s failure to engage in real dialogue and the passage of anti-democratic legislation.’
Russia responded by stating that both the US and the EU are interfering from the ‘outside’ in Ukrainian affairs and condemned the violation of Ukraine’s constitution by the extremist part of the opposition.
On Thursday, three opposition leaders met with President Yanukovich, however, on return Vitaly Klitschko – one of the opposition leaders – said that the ‘hours of conversation were spent about nothing.’ As a result, the people on the Maidan later voted to stop any talks with the president and decided to expand the main protest camps. Currently, the demonstrators have occupied various (governmental) buildings in an attempt to keep the people warm in temperatures that have dipped towards minus 16 degrees.
The anti-government movement, known as Euromaiden, started Pro-European protests in late November after Mr Yanukovich decided to pull out of a landmark treaty with the EU under pressure from Russia. Ever since the movement has been expanding, demanding Yanukovich’s resignation.
On Wednesday, five organising committees of different European countries received terrorist threats relating to the Sochi Games that are planned to start on 7 February. Despite the International Olympic Committee’s statement that the letters did not contain any ‘real threats’, saying that it were simply ‘random messages,’ an alarm was immediately raised.
With two attacks in the last month in the southern cities Volgograd and Pyatigorsk and the repeated threat of Islamist militants to strike the games, the security forces are on high alert. On Tuesday, the Russian security forces staged three anti-terrorist operations in Dagestan, the country’s most turbulent region. The prominent militant leader and head of the so-called Babyurtovskaya gang, Eldar Magtov, was killed during the operations. The same day, the security forces also successfully prevented a terrorist attack in Ashaga-Stal village, where a homemade bomb was planted near the office of the village’s administration.
The letters were sent out to committees in Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Slovakia. However, according to the director of international relations at the Hungarian Olympic Committee, the person responsible for sending the threats is currently stationed outside of Russia and has carried out similar hoaxes in the past.
Two women from London who were arrested last week have been charged with having jointly entered into or become concerned in an arrangement as a result of which money was made available or was to be made available to another, and they knew or had reasonable cause to suspect that it would or may be used for the purposes of terrorism.
The 27-year-old Amal El-Wahabi and 26-year-old Naval Masaad are said to have committed the alleged offence between 13 and 16 January this year. It is believed that funds were arranged for possible use by terrorists in Syria.
As it was revealed this week that two teenage schoolgirls were arrested this month over suspected terrorism offences, the Counter-terrorism Commander Richard Walton warned for the growing number of young boys and girls that are willing to take part in jihad and who could subsequently pose terrorist threat to Britain. The two 17-year-olds from London were stopped at Heathrow airport after police believed they were trying to fly from Britain to Syria to fight in the civil war. Furthermore, a senior Scotland Yard officer revealed that in total 14 young Britons have been held on charges linked to the Syrian conflict in January, compared to 24 for the whole of last year.
While the two teenage girls were later released, the two women will remain in custody until January 31, when they will appear at the Old Bailey.