Kiev protesters said to have captured two police officers

Government officials warned protesters occupying Kiev city hall police could storm it to rescue two policemen allegedly being held by the protesters. Demonstrators also briefly seized the headquarters of the energy ministry.

Sergei Grits/AP
Protesters throw a Molotov cocktail and stone during clashes with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 25. Ukraine's Interior Ministry has accused protesters in Kiev of capturing two of its officers as violent clashes have resumed in the capital and anti-government riots spread across Ukraine.

Anti-government protesters on Saturday seized a regional administration building, news reports said, and officials warned that police could storm the Kiev city hall to free two policemen allegedly captured by demonstrators.

Protesters have occupied the city hall for nearly two months and turned it into a makeshift dormitory and headquarters. Protesters deny they are holding the officers.

A ministry statement warned that police would storm the building if the two officers were not released. It said another officer who had been injured while being seized had been released and was hospitalized in serious condition.

The city hall is only a few hundred meters yards from both the site of protracted clashes between police and protesters over the past week and Independence Square, where demonstrators have set up an extensive tent camp and conducted round-the-clock protests since early December.

An attempt by police to storm the building would likely set off new clashes.

Protesters on Saturday morning seized the headquarters of the energy ministry, but left it several hours later. Energy Minister Eduard Stavitskiy was quoted by the Unian news agency as saying that all the country's nuclear power facilities were put on high alert after the seizure.

In Vinnitsya, about 110 miles southwest of Kiev, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the local administration building, Ukrainian news agencies said. Until the past week, the protests had been centered in Kiev with only smaller demonstrations elsewhere, but since the Kiev clashes began on Sunday, a score of local government buildings have been seized in the country's west, where support for President Viktor Yanukovych is thin.

Yanukovych has refused protesters' demand to resign and call early elections, offering only minor concessions to the opposition Friday. Violent clashes then resumed in Kiev's government district, with protesters pelting rocks and fire bombs at police, who responded with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

On Saturday morning, the clash site was tense, with demonstrators milling about, many of them bearing clubs, metal rods and large sticks. They watched as black smoke billowed from a barricade of burning tires, but there was no violence.

Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko, who is in charge of the police and is one of the figures most despised by the protesters, said other countries "must not close their eyes" to rising extremism in Ukraine. The country has come under wide criticism from the West during the protests, particularly after at least two demonstrators died of gunshot wounds in the clashes this week.

"The events of recent days in the Ukrainian capital showed that our attempts to peacefully resolve the conflict without resorting to forceful opposition remain futile," Zakharchenko said.

Yanukovych has called a special parliament session for Tuesday.

He said on Friday that the session would consider a government reshuffle, amnesty for many of the arrested protesters and changing recently passed harsh new laws cracking down on protests.

The new laws were a critical factor in prompting the last week's violence, in contrast to the determined peacefulness of most of the previous weeks of protests.

The holding company of Rinat Akhmetov, a powerful tycoon whose support has been important to Yanukovych, on Saturday issued a statement calling for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, saying "The most important thing is that the route of force will not find an exit."

AP writer Yuras Karmanau in Minsk contributed to this story.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.