More than 1,000 anti-vaccine protesters gather in the Ukrainian capital

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — More than 1,000 anti-vaccine protesters gathered in Ukraine’s capital Wednesday to denounce coronavirus restrictions, in the second such protest this month.

The demonstrators, many of whom were members of radical nationalist groups, gathered outside the parliament building and marched through downtown Kyiv with signs reading “Down with unconstitutional bans!” and “The Pandemic of Lies!”

The Ukrainian government has demanded that teachers, doctors, government employees and other groups of workers be fully vaccinated by December 1. It has also started requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results for air, rail and long-term travel. remote bus.

“We are protesting the compulsory vaccination and demanding (the government rescinds) the restrictions,” said Mykola Kokhanivskyi, the protest organizer who leads the nationalist group OUN Volunteer Movement. “The constitution guarantees every Ukrainian the absence of medical experiments and does not require any COVID certificates.”

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Ukraine has reported a record number of infections and deaths, an increase blamed on the slow pace of vaccination. The country has reported more than 3.3 million infections and 82,913 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Four coronavirus vaccines are available in Ukraine – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac – but only 23% of its 41 million people are fully vaccinated. The Ministry of Health said 96% of patients with severe COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said the government aims to fully vaccinate at least 40% of the country’s adults by the end of the year.

Authorities further tightened restrictions on Wednesday, cutting the validity of a certificate issued after the first vaccine from 120 to 30 days to prevent people from delaying getting a second dose. These certificates are required for access to public transport.

The restrictions have spawned a black market for fake vaccination documents, which sell for the equivalent of $100 to $300. A fake digital government app for smartphones is said to be available, with fake certificates installed.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government has promised each fully vaccinated Ukrainian a payment of 1,000 hryvnia ($38), or about 5% of the average monthly salary, but widespread hesitation remains.

“I will not allow anyone to force me to take medicine with microchips, compromising health and causing thousands of diseases,” said one of the protesters, 36-year-old entrepreneur Olena Alkon, referring to theories of the long-denied vaccine conspiracy. “I will not allow the pharmaceutical mafia who invented a myth about the coronavirus to manage my health.”

Speaking at the rally, Yuriy Ovsiykenko, a lawyer, denounced the vaccination as a cover for the “destruction of the Ukrainian nation”.

It was the second such protest this month. Following the previous protest on November 3, authorities arrested Ostap Stakhiv, the leader of the anti-vaccine movement. A court ordered him to remain in detention for two months pending trial for trying to destabilize the situation in the country.

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Christi C. Elwood