A Ukrainian national guardsman has been killed during protests against the Kiev government’s move to give more autonomy to breakaway regions in a bid for peace.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed a paramilitary wing of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party for the violence, which he claimed injured approximately 125 others on Monday night (AEST).
“At a time when Russia and its bandits are seeking to destroy the country but are unable to do this on the front line, the so-called pro-Ukrainian political forces are trying to open a second front inside the country,” Mr Yatsenyuk said in a nationwide address.
The violence flared shortly after MPs backed the first reading of constitutional reforms that critics have branded ‘un-Ukrainian’ for giving greater powers to Moscow-backed insurgents in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
A total of 265 lawmakers voted in favour of the legislation at a stormy session, which saw some MPs try to disrupt the vote, which they condemned as “pro-Vladimir Putin”. Some shouted “Shame!”
The reforms were agreed as part of a February peace deal brokered by Germany and France that called for Kiev to implement decentralisation by year’s end.
Outside parliament, baton-wielding riot police clashed with the protesters.
A loud blast was heard and clouds of black smoke billowed into the air as demonstrators threw what security forces said were grenades.
Some of the injured lay bleeding on the ground in front of the parliament building, with many suffering injuries to their arms and legs. Most of those hurt were in uniform.
The ultra-nationalist Svodoba party blamed the violence on police, which it said were the first to use force.
The authorities said a member of the National Guard, believed to be a 24 or 25-year-old conscript, died of his injuries, citing cause of death as a bullet wound then revising to grenade shrapnel.
The second reading of the legislation is expected by the end of the year. It will need a two-thirds majority of 450 lawmakers to pass that stage.
Kiev’s Western allies see the reforms as a chance to end the armed conflict in the east that has claimed more than 6800 lives over the past 16 months.