KIEV: Protesters clashed with police near Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday as they sought to force lawmakers to strip em–battled President Viktor Yanu–kovych of a raft of powers, in the latest bid to break months of political deadlock.
Police fired rubber bullets and hurled smoke bombs at protesters who threw stones and set two trucks on fire as they tried to break through heavily fortified police cordons around the parliament building, an Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene said.
Ukraine’s interior ministry said in a statement that three ser–vicemen were injured after protesters directed a truck through the police ranks.
Some 20,000 mainly peaceful demonstrators massed outside parliament—where Yanukovych’s party has the biggest presence—to try to push lawmakers to vote on returning the country to its 2004 constitution, under which key powers would shift from the president to parliament.
The demonstrators had marched from Kiev’s iconic Independence Square, where the opposition remains firmly en–trenched in a sprawling tent city after nearly three months of protests against Yanukovych’s rule.
Opposition leaders had earlier said that they were planning a “peaceful offensive” on parliament to put the squeeze on lawmakers.
“We hope that the deputies from the majority will recognize what they have to do and allow a vote on constitutional change,” Oleg Tyagnybok, nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party leader told journalists at the head of one of the protest columns.
A planned session of parliament failed to start on time as lawmakers from Yanukovych’s party blamed opposition leaders for refusing to negotiate with them and taking to the streets instead.