Ukranians protesting public assembly laws tracked by cellphones

The Ukrainian government used telephone technology to pinpoint the locations of cellphones in use near clashes between riot police officers and protesters early on Tuesday.
People near the fighting between riot police and protesters received a text message shortly after midnight saying “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.”
The phrasing echoed language in a new law making participation in a protest deemed violent a crime punishable by imprisonment. The law took effect on Tuesday.
This law and a package of other legislation passed by pro-government political parties in Parliament appeared modeled on rules in neighboring Russia, which has pioneered the coordination of legislation tightening rules on free speech and public assembly with technological capabilities.
In the civil unrest in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, though, the text message seemed to have little effect.
The police fired plastic bullets from shotguns and threw stun grenades.
In another tactic apparently being ramped up on Tuesday to pressure protesters, young men in sweatshirts carrying sticks roamed side streets near the central square, beating protesters and breaking shop windows, including the window of a bar on Khreshchatyk, the main street. The opposition leaders had said they believed these people to be soccer hooligans and unemployed men bused into the capital by the government to provide a proxy force of street muscle to intimidate protesters and darken the image of the movement by inciting violence.
Witnesses reported on social media that as this unfolded around 4 a.m., the police had all but disappeared from the streets in downtown Kiev, apart from the riot forces confronting protesters and guarding the Parliament building.
Vitali Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion and the leader of the political party Punch, wrote of the thugs on his Twitter account. “This is a plan of authorities to introduce a state of emergency.”
Early on Tuesday morning, opposition activists detained a dozen or so of these rival young men and marched them back to one of several buildings occupied by protesters.
Opposition activists questioned them in an exchange broadcast on an opposition-controlled television station. Several of the young men said they were promised about $25 to create disturbances near the square but did not explain clearly who had hired them.
An activist who has been prominent in the movement, Ihor Lutsenko, went missing Tuesday after unknown men forced him into a car in the parking lot of a hospital, according to a Facebook post by Mr. Lutsenko’s wife.
Although the protests began in November after President Viktor F. Yanukovich declined to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union, the movement was reinvigorated by opposition to new laws against public assembly passed last week.

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