KIEV: Controversial anti-protest laws which sparked unprece-dented riots in Ukraine entered force on Tuesday as the latest standoff between thousands of protesters and anti-riot police in Kiev moved into a third day.
The new laws, which ban nearly all forms of protest in the former Soviet country, were officially published in the newspaper of the Ukranian parliament after a warning from President Viktor Yanukovych that the violence threatened the entire country.
They allow for jail terms of up to five years for those who blockade public buildings and the arrest of protesters wearing masks or helmets.
Other provisions ban the dissemination of “slander” on the Internet.
The move to bring them into force came despite calls from the West and the opposition to bin the legislation, raising fears that the authorities could use the restrictions to resort to violence to disperse the protest.
Clashes on Sunday and Monday, which followed two months of protests, turned the center of the capital Kiev into a veritable war zone as some 10,000 demonstrators battled security forces.
Fireworks and stun grenades lit up the night sky while the deafening drumming of protesters with sticks on metal echoed through the streets.
The violence in a country where the pro-democracy “Orange revolution” in 2004 peacefully overturned a rigged presidential poll and forced a new ballot is unprecedented.
The clashes erupted after a rally of some 200,000 people against the restrictions on protesting was pushed through by Yanukovych supporters in parliament on Sunday.