Ukrainians Fear “Belarus-Style” Repression After Riot Police Violently Disperse Peaceful Protest

Several dozen people were hospitalized Saturday after riot police cleared a tent city protesting President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a deal with the EU. Yanukovych’s chief of staff reportedly resigned in the wake of the violence.

Ukrainians gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square on Friday night to demand their country move away from Russia and towards the European Union.

Sergei L. Loiko/Los Angeles Times / MCT

Protesters had been camped out there since last week, furious at President Viktor Yanukovych for backing out of a pact with the EU at the last minute under heavy Russian pressure.

This sketch of Yanukovych reads “Sign it!” Sergei L. Loiko/Los Angeles Times / MCT

After Yanukovych told EU leaders at a summit on Friday there was no chance of signing the deal, riot police violently dispersed protesters from the square without warning at 4 a.m. Saturday.

Police used batons and stun grenades to break up the tent city.

Several dozen protesters were hospitalized.

Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

Reuters photographer Gleb Garanich was among those injured.

Stringer / Reuters

Police sealed off the square and removed all traces of the tent city.

Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

Several students barricaded themselves inside a nearby monastery.

“We woke up in another country. Ukraine’s more like Belarus,” the country known as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk told the Interfax news agency.

Gleb Garanich / Reuters

EU foreign ministers were quick to condemn the violence.

Many Ukrainians on Twitter worried that their country was backsliding towards neo-Soviet repression.

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