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4 Ukraine officials to be probed over crackdown

KIEV, Ukraine--Ukrainian authorities on Saturday conceded to one of the demands of weeks-long protests gripping the capital, opening investigations against four top officials and suspending two of them from office over the violent police response to a small demonstration last month.

Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka said that the deputy head of the national security council, the head of the Kiev city administration, as well as the then-head of Kiev police and his deputy are being investigated on suspicion of abuse of office in the crackdown on protesters, according to his spokeswoman Margarita Velkova. Prosecutors will seek to place the suspects under house arrest.

Dozens of protesters, many of them students, were injured after riot police violently dispersed a small rally on Kiev's Independence Square in the early hours of Nov. 30, beating protesters on the heads and limbs, dragging them on the ground, and chasing fleeing activists and to beat them more.

Shortly after Pshonka's announcement, President Viktor Yanukovych suspended two of the senior officials under investigation, Kiev city head Oleksandr Popov and deputy head of the National Security Council Volodymyr Syvkovych, while investigation continues.

He stopped short, however, of fulfilling the protesters' demand that the president fire two of his closed allies: Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and the beleaguered Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko, whom the protesters view as responsible for the crackdown.

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