Ukraine protesters try to seize energy ministry building: minister

Interior Ministry members stand guard inside the regional administration headquarters as anti-government protesters attempt to take over during a rally in the town of Chernivtsi in southwestern Ukraine, January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

KIEV: About 100 anti-government protesters tried to seize Ukraine's main energy ministry building in central Kiev on Saturday, Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky said.

"There was an attempt to seize the building. About 100 people came, armed. I went to them and said that if they did not peacefully leave the building, then the whole energy system of Ukraine could collapse," Stavytsky told Reuters by telephone.

He said the protesters left but he had been told they were blocking entry to the building outside. "What is taking place is a direct threat to the whole Ukrainian energy system," he said.

Hundreds of activists have already occupied City Hall and the agricultural ministry, both close to the energy ministry building, in increasingly violent protests against President Viktor Yanukovich's rule.

Big rallies were expected to take place in the centre of Kiev this weekend despite promises by Yanukovich to reshuffle the government and promote changes to sweeping anti-protest legislation.

Though the protest movement - known as the "EuroMaidan" - is largely peaceful, a hardcore of radicals are now openly battling police away from the main seat of the protest on Independence Square.

Witnesses said they continued to throw petrol bombs and other projectiles at police lines overnight near Dynamo Kiev football stadium, but stopped at around 6 a.m.

Thick smoke from burning tyres rose over the area and protesters kept up a drum-beat of sticks on corrugated metal and barrels to show their disdain for riot police.





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