Ukrainian government sends warning to protesters via text message

BY Ruth Tam  January 21, 2014 at 3:45 PM EDT
Protesters have been storming the streets in Kiev since December in response to Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovich declining an economic deal with the European Union. Video still by PBS NewsHour

Protesters have been storming the streets in Kiev since December in response to Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovich declining an economic deal with the European Union. Video still by PBS NewsHour

Outside Ukraine’s Parliament building in Kiev Tuesday morning, violent riots were perforated by catchy chimes and steady vibrations. According to the New York Times, those near the fighting between government police and opposition activists were sent a text message shortly after midnight. The sender? The Ukrainian government.

“Dear subscriber,” it read. “You are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”

The new anti-demonstration legislation that went into effect Tuesday and sparked the outburst of violence severely limits acts of protest. According to The Telegraph, the text message warning did not appear to stem the riots, which have, so far, generated petrol bombs and laser pens from opposition activists and tear gas and stun grenades from police.

In December, Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovich passed on an economic partnership with the European Union to accept a bailout from Russia. Activists vocalized opposition over the deal in November, but the new anti-protest law has reinvigorated the opposition movement that condemns Russia’s influence and notorious hold on free speech and demonstration.

The last major protest in Kiev nearly a decade ago was largely fueled by online media circulated from mobile phones. In what’s known now as the “Orange Revolution.” Yanukovich’s 2004 rival in the presidential election, Viktor Yushchenko, was declared the winner after protesters alleged Yanukovich rigged the election. In 2010 when Yanukovich’s name was cleared, Yanukovich succeeded Yushchenko who had drastically lost public favor by the end of his term.