Ukraine’s president accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of masterminding a coup plan for the opposition and said that he was under military observation.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who lost a 2011 presidential election to Viktor Yanukovych, said that a group of Russians and Ukrainians with the help of the Russian Army was plotting a coup plot, which would either lead to a removal of Zelensky and Yanukovych, or a quick resignation and quick return of the current president.
The charges were made in a speech to the Ukrainian parliament, which is meeting in Kiev to pressure Zelensky to resign in a vote scheduled for July 26. He said that the plotters had been financed by Russia. Zelensky’s party has been in opposition for more than 20 years.
Moscow denies that it is behind the crackdown on Yanukovych and is blaming the chaos in Ukraine on the “anti-constitutional forces.” A number of Ukrainian opposition leaders have come to public defense of their Russian backers.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said that the charges against Zelensky were “false and absurd,” and that they were attempts to keep Zelensky from resigning from the presidency and forming a new government with the opposition.
According to Zelensky, the plan to oust him came a month ago, before the failure of his talks with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Zelensky described his meeting with Medvedev as a failure because it was not clear that the two sides could reach agreement.
“As a result, the government was unable to seize victory, but only to leave the room,” Zelensky said.
On June 14, Zelensky convened a special session of the parliament to discuss the events in Russia. He urged the government to prepare a law that would limit the right of the KGB to spy on Ukrainian political activities. Zelensky and the leaders of the opposition also discussed starting the process of forming a new government.
But just hours before Zelensky’s parliament speech, there was a threat of more violence. A provocative video recording was posted on the internet that led to the arrest of 23 pro-Russian protesters, and two (one of them a national lawmaker) by the Interior Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry also released figures showing a surge in killings across the country. It said that 130 people were killed, 62 of them political activists, between June 15 and July 17. During that period, the police have detained 256 separatists, 174 of them active in the gas sector, 201 of them from the agricultural sector, 133 of them youth. The Ukraine government has accused the separatists of having close ties with Russia, and the separatists have accused the government of planning a fascist and repressive coup.
Authorities increased the number of security forces around several government buildings on Thursday. Kiev also increased anti-riot patrols, and gave permission for a blockade of a major Russian gas pipeline. Some ships, including those belonging to Russian-owned companies, headed for the Ukrainian port of Mariupol were prevented from using Ukrainian waters.
The violence that the riots have unleashed, however, have touched down particularly hard on Russian-speaking Crimea, an area where about 70 percent of the 2 million residents are ethnic Russians. For many ethnic Russians, there was a feeling of conspiracy that the entire region was turned into an “empire” by the Kremlin and Yanukovych, who stepped down last week after days of violence and another weekend of rioting.
The violence has continued unabated for a week. On Thursday, three protesters were killed by gunfire near a government headquarters in Simferopol. A protest leader said the three were a middle-aged pensioner, her daughter and her husband. About 500 riot police and other law enforcement officials, including national guardsmen, were at the scene, and the body of the injured was brought in an ambulance to a medical clinic on the beach.
Police and protesters also exchanged gunfire in another town near Sevastopol. Ten people were injured in the town of Novohanneski, the local governor told Interfax. In the northwestern town of Kherson, at least one soldier was shot, TV stations reported.
Amid continuing violence, there are increasing calls in Kiev for international intervention. Ukrainian nationalist leader Ihor Borgens asked the United Nations to intervene.