Enraged protesters hurled rocks at buses carrying evacuees from China to a Ukraine village and tried to block them from entering — after a hoax email emerged claiming that some of those on board had contracted the coronavirus, according to new reports.
Chaos broke out in several places Thursday after a “fake news” email claiming to be from Ukraine’s health ministry falsely stated that there were five cases of coronavirus in the country — the same day a plane carrying evacuees from China arrived amid the deadly epidemic, BuzzFeed News reported.
Ukraine’s Center for Public Health put out a message stating the email was untrue — and President Volodymyr Zelensky said authorities had everything under control — but that didn’t seem to phase the hundreds of irate protesters, according to the report.
Several hundred residents of the village of Novi Sanzhary in Ukraine’s central Poltava region barricaded the road to a sanitarium meant to host the more than 70 evacuees, fearing they could become infected, The Guardian reported.
The protesters, some of whom appeared drunk, put up roadblocks, burned tires and one even tried to ram police lines with his car, according to the report.
Ukrainian authorities insist each of the passengers had been screened twice for the virus before being allowed to fly.
Still, demonstrators argued that the evacuees should be housed elsewhere, according to The Guardian.
“Isn’t there any other place in Ukraine that can host 50 people, that is located in more or less remote villages or in far-off areas where there is no threat to population?” asked resident Yuriy Dzyubenko.
One protester suggested the evacuees should be kept at Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Another proposed that they be brought to Parliament — and yet another declared that Zelensky should house them himself if there truly is no threat of infection.
“This is what I am telling him, telling the president: ‘Take 10 people, then I will take two,’” said a protester named Yuriy, who did not give his last name.
Nine police officers and one civilian needed to be taken to the hospital amid the violence, and more than 10 protesters were detained, according to regional police.
Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, visited the chaotic scene in an attempt to urge the protesters “not to fall for provocations and be understanding of the necessity for these temporary measures,” according to the report.
Poltava’s regional police spokesman Yuri Sulayev called the skirmishes “rather heated.”
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