Last night about 1000 'Berkut' special forces personnel in full riot gear were sent to clear 200 or so peaceful, tired, lightly dressed protesters from the central Maidan or Independence Square in Kyiv, even though there was no threat of civil disobedience. [videos here also here ]. Several television journalists were assaulted and their equipment damaged in the melee, even though they claim their press ID was clearly presented to the riot police.
The protesters had marched for many days from the small town of Vradiyivka where local police had allegedly been systematically stealing, extorting, raping and even murdering its residents for many years.
The situation came to a head when a local girl was raped and left for dead, resulting in the attempted storming of the local police headquarters. The story hit a nerve and the story was widely reported. There are many subsequent reports of similar situations existing right across the country.
Many Ukrainians now truly fear law enforcement agencies because they are out of control - not accountable to citizen watchdog committees as they are in many countries. Police approval ratings are in low single digits.
Opposition politicians claim law enforcement agencies, police, prosecutors and the judiciary now primarily serve only two purposes: to provide cover for the massive enrichment of President Yanukovych, his 'Family' and their associates, and to crush any possible protest movements, including reasonable, well organised peaceful ones such as the Vradiyivka march.
Policing should have been particularly tactful and sensitive in Independence Square last night, bearing in mind the reason why the demonstrators had gathered and what their demands were. Intimidating peaceful demonstrators with such a large number of special forces troops, the largest number collectively assembled for several years in the capital, was complete overkill...
There is mounting evidence, e.g. as in this video, that passers-by, even those not known to one another are willing to physically challenge police on a day-to-day basis.