21 Feb 2020 21:58

Zelensky: Instigators, organizers of 'panic' over return of Ukrainians from Wuhan must be punished

KYIV. Feb 21 (Interfax) - The people responsible for fomenting panic over the return of a group of Ukrainian and foreign citizens from China's Wuhan must be held accountable, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

"I understand that some locals might have been alarmed. We know that someone deliberately and purposefully sowed panic among the people and then incited them to this barbarity. The instigators and organizers of that will be held accountable," Zelensky said in an address posted on his Facebook account on Friday.

Ukrainian authorities earlier decided to evacuate the country's citizens from China due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Forty-five Ukrainians and 27 foreigners arrived in Ukraine from China on February 20. It was reported on the same day that they would be accommodated in the Ukrainian National Guard's medical center Novi Sanzhary in the Poltava region.

Local residents protested the decision. They tried to block an automobile convoy bringing in the evacuees, hurling stones at the buses. Several police officers were hurt in the clashes. Twenty-four of the most aggressive citizens were taken to territorial police stations. Twenty-three detainees were later released, and one was left in custody.

Investigators opened five criminal cases on counts of group violation of public order, mass unrest, violation of people's equality depending on their race, ethnicity, or religious beliefs, blockage of transport communications and seizure of a transport company, and threat or violence against a law enforcement official.

Nine law enforcement officials and one civilian were injured and required medical attention following the clashes in Novi Sanzhary.

All evacuees, along with the members of the evacuation team and the aircraft crew, are being housed in individual rooms in the Ukrainian National Guard's medical center Novi Sanzhary in the Poltava region, where they will remain for 14 days under strict sanitary epidemiological and security control.