Kiwi in 'apocalyptic' Kiev protests

Pro-European protesters clash with Ukranian riot police during a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev January 19, 2014. Up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed in the capital Kiev on Sunday (local time) in defiance of sweeping new laws.
Pro-European protesters clash with Ukranian riot police during a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev January 19, 2014. Up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed in the capital Kiev on Sunday (local time) in defiance of sweeping new laws.
Up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed in the capital Kiev on Sunday in defiance of sweeping new laws aimed at stamping out anti-government protests. The rally, the biggest this year in a cycle of pro-Europe protests convulsing the former Soviet republic for the past two months, was spurred by the legislation rushed through parliament last week and which the opposition says will lead to a police state.
Up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed in the capital Kiev on Sunday in defiance of sweeping new laws aimed at stamping out anti-government protests. The rally, the biggest this year in a cycle of pro-Europe protests convulsing the former Soviet republic for the past two months, was spurred by the legislation rushed through parliament last week and which the opposition says will lead to a police state.
Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko (centre) reacts after he was sprayed with a powder fire extinguisher.
Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko (centre) reacts after he was sprayed with a powder fire extinguisher.
Pro-European integration protesters attack a police van during a rally near government administration buildings.
Pro-European integration protesters attack a police van during a rally near government administration buildings.
A pro-European integration protester clashes with Ukranian riot police during a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev. Protesters attacked riot police with sticks in Kiev on Sunday, January 19, and tried to overturn a bus blocking their path to parliament, as up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed in defiance of sweeping new laws aimed at stamping out anti-government demonstrations.
A pro-European integration protester clashes with Ukranian riot police during a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev. Protesters attacked riot police with sticks in Kiev on Sunday, January 19, and tried to overturn a bus blocking their path to parliament, as up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed in defiance of sweeping new laws aimed at stamping out anti-government demonstrations.
Pro-European integration protesters clash with Ukranian riot police.
Pro-European integration protesters clash with Ukranian riot police.
A pro-European integration protester injured during clashes with Ukranian riot police receives treatment.
A pro-European integration protester injured during clashes with Ukranian riot police receives treatment.
A pro-European integration protester gestures at a burning police bus.
A pro-European integration protester gestures at a burning police bus.
A pro-European integration protester walks past a burning police bus during a rally near government administration buildings.
A pro-European integration protester walks past a burning police bus during a rally near government administration buildings.
A pro-European protester takes cover during clashes with Ukranian riot police.
A pro-European protester takes cover during clashes with Ukranian riot police.

A Kiwi caught up in riots in the Ukrainian capital has described "apocalyptic" scenes as protests against the government turn violent.

About 100,000 protesters gathered near government administration buildings in Kiev on Sunday night in defiance of legislation designed to curb demonstrations.

The package of new laws was rushed through Parliament last week. It restricted free speech, the free press, the right of assembly and internet use.

KIWI IN KIEV: Jared Morgan.
KIWI IN KIEV: Jared Morgan.

Former Fairfax reporter Jared Morgan has been living in Kiev since 2011.

He witnessed Sunday's protest until he was forced to retreat when riot police began firing tear gas and smoke bombs at the crowd.

"The scene [on Sunday night] was chaotic and frightening, and the scene [in the morning] was apocalyptic, it looks like World War III in that street," he said.

"What happened was a Mexican standoff for maybe five, six hours. Then the crowd got increasingly aggressive, so we saw Molotov cocktails and stun grenades."

Burnt-out shells of buses, explosives and broken cobbles littered the street, he said.

"People were breaking the pavement to hurl at police, meanwhile police were firing back with rubber bullets. People had eye injuries, and one person had a stun grenade blow up in his hand, which was amputated."

Demonstrations began in November after the government refused to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union in favour of pursuing closer ties with Russia.

Morgan said until Sunday, it had been a peaceful revolution, with people assembling to protest injustices and asking to move towards more democratic leadership.

But the latest laws had turned Ukraine into a "little Russia," triggering a violent response.

"It's constantly evolving, and in a few days it's gone from peaceful protest to all hell breaking loose."

Reinforcement troops were expected to come in from outside the capital to quell the protests. The situation could become even more aggressive in the next days.

Morgan said it was now a "waiting game," and with harsh penalties for failing to comply. Because the new laws allow for jail terms of up to 15 years, he was uncertain of his future in Kiev.

"Nobody really knows ... there's going to be more fighting, bloodshed and huge problems," he said.

"Two months of quiet protest with a few dramatic moments has suddenly turned into what some people are calling the brink of civil war."

Stuff