Thu, 09 Apr 2020

Violence erupted as the first group of Ukrainians evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan -- the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak -- arrived the city of Novi Sanzhary in the eastern region of Poltava.

Residents opposing the move to bring the potentially infected people to the area on February 20 threw stones at the evacuees and clashed with police.

Ukrainian authorities said 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreigners, as well as medical personnel and crew members were aboard the plane that had evacuated the group from Wuhan.

The nationalities of the foreign citizens were not immediately known.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook on February 20 that the plane carrying both Ukrainians and several foreigners made a quick stop to refuel at Kyiv's Borispil Airport before landing in Kharkiv, where the group was bused to the designated place of quarantine.

Zelenskiy said all the people who arrived from Wuhan will be quarantined for 14 days in the National Guard's medical center in Novi Sanzhary.

Masked evacuees peered through bus windows as they drove under a heavy police escort.

Stones had shattered a window on one of the buses, but it was not clear if there were any injuries on the vehicle.

A police statement said that nine officers and one civilian were hospitalized following the clashes and that 24 protesters had been detained.

Zelenskiy said the protesters had displayed "not the best side of our character' and insisted that the quarantined individuals would not pose a threat to residents.

In an effort to reassure residents,Ukraine's health minister, Zoryana Skaletska, said she would live with the evacuees in quarantine for two weeks.

Separately, in the western region of Lviv, protesters blocked one of the highways for a short time amid rumors that some of those evacuated from Wuhan could be placed in quarantine in a military hospital in the area. Local authorities denied the rumors.

China has reported 2,233 deaths from the disease, with about 75,000 total infections.

The World Health Organization has said that 1,076 cases have been reported in nearly 30 other countries.

Authorities have been Wuhan, with a population of some 11 million people, in a virtual lockdown, and most countries have evacuated their nationals from the city, putting them in some form of quarantine.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and Ukraine Pravda

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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