Protest Over Land Reform Near Parliament Leads to Clashes With Police
17 December, 2019

Fights broke out near the Ukrainian parliament during a protest against a proposed land reform bill. That’s according to a Hromadske correspondent who was present at the protest. The correspondent says that the fight started when representatives from the National Corps nationalist organization moved forward to install tents in front of the parliament. 

Specialized police officers asked whether they had permission to set up the tents, which sparked the conflict. National Corps representatives poured Brilliant Green dye (widely used in Ukraine as an antiseptic – ed.) onto the police, who responded with tear gas. 

READ MORE: "Land Reform Would Be Revolutionary for Ukraine" – Timothy Ash

Our correspondents, journalist Viktoria Roshchyna and camera operator Oleksiy Nikulin, also suffered from tear gas during the incident. Roshchyna’s phone was knocked out of her hands, and tentpoles were thrown in the correspondents’ directions.

The protest featured other political movements beyond National Corps – nationalist party “Svoboda” took part, as well as opposition parties Batkivshchyna and the Agrarian Party. Police estimate that 1,500 to 2,000 people took part in the protest.  

Protests have also been held in the Odesa, Lviv, Kharkiv, and Khmelnytsk regions, with protestors usually blocking off a portion of the roadway in those cities. Land reform is a highly contentious issue in Ukraine, and recent polls have shown that up to 75% of respondents are against the cancellation of the land moratorium which heavily restricts the sale of agricultural land in the country.

READ MORE: Parliament Shows Support for Land Reform Bill. What Would This Mean for Ukraine?

Opposition to the bill, which passed Parliament on the first reading in mid-November, partly stems from a fear of ‘foreign’ involvement in Ukrainian agriculture – the question of whether or not to allow foreign businesses and individuals to purchase agricultural land in Ukraine has proven contentious enough that Ukrainian president Zelenskyy has promised to set the question to an all-Ukrainian referendum.

Other criticisms of the bill include risks of monopolization – with wealthy citizens who have access to capital buying up the available agricultural land, though land reform supporters have pointed to a raft of restrictions in the proposed reform that would limit a single individual or company from owning more than a set percentage of land in a given community.

The reform is still undergoing changes, however – discussion and debate on the second reading of the bill was announced by ruling Servant of the People party head David Arakhamia to be held on December 17, though it was not ultimately listed on that day’s agenda. Opponents of the bill have promised further protests and action against land reform – but the Servant of the People party, with their single majority in Parliament, seems set on passing it.

READ MORE: Ukrainians Have Been Tricked to Oppose Land Reform, Says Ukrainian President

/By Romeo Kokriatski

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