Ukrainian Church leaders condemn police violence

A man throws a flare in the direction of Interior Ministry members during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 1.

CNS PHOTO | GLEB GARANICH, REUTERS

A man throws a flare in the direction of Interior Ministry members during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 1.

December 9, 2013

The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and other Catholic leaders condemned police violence against "peaceful demonstrations" after President Viktor Yanukovich's decision not to seek closer ties with the European Union.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, of Kyiv-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, spoke of preventing an "escalation of violence, which could lead to even more tragic consequences. We must not respond to violence with violence and evil with evil," he said.

Demonstrators barricaded Kyiv's Independence Square and urged a general strike to protest the president's withdrawal from an EU association agreement, which was to have been signed at a Nov. 28-29 summit in Lithuania.

Ukrainian newspapers reported police reinforcements were being sent to Kyiv after weekend street clashes left at least 100 police and 165 opposition supporters injured.

Protesters blockaded the cabinet office and other official buildings in the capital Dec. 2, demanding the resignation of Yanukovich and his prime minister, Mykola Azarov.

Ukraine's Council of Churches and Religious Organizations also urged citizens to remember "violence begets violence."

Ukraine's Catholic University accused the government of "sending hired thugs" to "fuel a bloody confrontation" Dec. 1 in front of Kyiv's presidential palace, but warned protesters against revenge, "no matter how strong the motivation is."