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Ukraine says dozens of police hurt in clashes with lockdown protesters

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KYIV (Reuters) - One police officer was knocked unconscious and 40 others received chemical eye burns from gas on Tuesday in clashes between police and thousands of people protesting a government lockdown to fight the coronavirus, the interior ministry said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government has announced a tight national lockdown starting in January to fight the spread of COVID-19, in the wake of a recent spike in cases.

At a rally of entrepreneurs and representatives of small businesses on Kyiv’s Independence Square, clashes between helmeted riot police and demonstrators erupted after the protesters tried to set up tents.

“One policeman was hit on the head - and he lost consciousness. Another 40 received chemical eye burns,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

Three police officers were hospitalised after being attacked by a group of drunk men, police said in a separate statement.

More than 900,000 people have contracted the novel coronavirus in Ukraine.

The new lockdown measures, which include the closure of schools, cafes, restaurants, gyms and entertainment centres and a ban on mass gatherings, will be in force from Jan. 8 to 24.

The government last month introduced a lockdown at weekends, closing or restricting most businesses except those involved in essential services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, hospitals and transportation. It lifted the restrictions on Dec. 2.

Reporting by Gleb Garanich; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Paul Simao