Thousands Protest Outside Kiev Mayor's Office Against Sharp Increase In Utilities Rates

KIEV, Ukraine -- Thousands of residents of the Ukrainian capital rallied Thursday outside city hall to protest against a threefold increase in maintenance and utilities rates, calling for the mayor's ouster.

Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky

The city council, meanwhile, met inside to debate the rate hikes. As of Dec. 1, many Kiev residents saw their monthly payments for maintenance, electricity, gas, heat and other services skyrocket — with some facing increases of more than 340 percent.

Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky has defended the increase, blaming the previous administration for creating the problem by not hiking rates since 1999.

In a bid to calm tension, Chernovetsky proposed creating a special commission to verify the need for the hikes, his office said Thursday.

His political opponents — President Viktor Yushchenko's bloc and the bloc of former premier Yulia Tymoshenko — argue, however, that their goal is to rollback the increase.

They argue it must be phased in more gradually, and are trying to initiate a public referendum of no-confidence on Chernovetsky. The dispute has escalated into a brutal political battle, with all sides accusing one another of misleading the public.

On Thursday, protesters erected numerous cardboard cutouts of the mayor, a former banking magnate, outside city hall and called on passer-by to write their opinion of the mayor and deposit it in a box. "If you don't have words, then spit on it," a sign read.

Hundreds of police stood watch, as protesters waved party flags and listened to speeches condemning the mayor. The protest snarled traffic on one of Kiev's main streets.

"He's not capable of being mayor," complained Lidiya Rulok, 60, who said the city services bill for her apartment grew to 500 hryvna (US$100, €75) this month — 100 hryvna (US$20, €15) more than her monthly pension. "Where does he think I'm going to get that kind of money?"

Source: AP

Comments

Anonymous said…
INTERESTING HOW THIS TIMING IS JUST BEFORE PUTIN'S PLANNED ARRIVAL AND VOICE OF CONCERN THAT UKRAINE PURSUES QUEST FOR NATO AFFLIATION???
FROM WHERE DOES THIS MAYOR HAVE AND GET SUCH AUTHORITY TO TRY TO RAISE SUCH RATES???? CONVEINENT THAT YANUKOVICH IS OUT OF COUNTRY AS THIS AND FOREIGN MINISTERS REINSTATEMENT ISSUES ERUPT???