February 18, 2014
(Reuters) – Ukrainian protesters hurled petrol bombs, fireworks and stones at riot police on Tuesday, and at least nine people died in the worst day of violence since demonstrations erupted against President Viktor Yanukovich 12 weeks ago. Western powers warned Yanukovich against trying to smash the pro-European demonstrations and opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko, fearing an assault, urged women and children to leave Kiev’s central Maidan square “to avoid further victims”. A police spokeswoman said seven civilians and two policemen had died in Tuesday’s clashes.
Forces loyal to the Russian-backed leader broke through front-line barricades near the Dynamo Kiev football stadium and marched to the edge of occupied Independence Square (Maidan). They moved in hours after Moscow gave Ukraine $2 billion in aid which it had been holding back to demand decisive action to crush the protests. Nationwide protests against Yanukovich erupted in November after he bowed to Russian pressure and pulled out of a planned far-reaching trade agreement with the European Union, deciding instead to accept a Kremlin bailout for the former Soviet republic’s heavily indebted economy. In what has become a geo-political tussle redolent of the Cold War, the United States and its Western allies are urging Yanukovich to turn back to Europe and the prospect of an IMF-supported economic recovery, while Russia accuses them of meddling.
Clashes raged for several hours on Tuesday outside the parliament building, where opposition lawmaker Lesya Orobets said three demonstrators were killed and taken to a nearby officers’ club used as a medical centre. More than 100 people were injured, she said. “Three bodies of our supporters are in the building. Another seven are close to dying (because of wounds),” she said on her Facebook page. Two more bodies were lying in front of a Metro station on the southeastern side of the square, a photographer told Reuters. The police spokeswoman said the two officers and three protesters died of gunshot wounds. Two more protesters suffered heart attacks while one died in a fire and another in a traffic accident. The State Security Service (SBU), in a joint statement with the interior ministry, set protesters a 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) deadline to end street disorder or face “tough measures”.
“If by 6 p.m. the disturbances have not ended, we will be obliged to restore order by all means envisaged by law,” the statement said. The defence ministry issued a separate warning to protesters to evacuate the officers’ club near parliament. Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion who leads one of three main opposition groups, told protesters on the occupied square: “We cannot exclude the possibility of use of force in an assault on the Maidan.”
Source = Reuters
February 18, 2014
Violent clashes have erupted during anti-government protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, with at least nine people, including two policemen, dead. In the worst violence in weeks, police used rubber bullets and stun grenades as thousands of protesters marching on parliament. A deadline set by the security forces for the violence to end has passed with no immediate sign of police action. The clashes came as MPs were due to debate changes to the constitution. The proposals would curb the powers of President Viktor Yanukovych, but the opposition say they were blocked from submitting their draft, meaning no debate could take place.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply worried” by the escalation of violence, and urged politicians to “address the root causes”. Russia blamed the upsurge in violence on “connivance by Western politicians and European structures” and their refusal to consider the “aggressive actions” of radical factions within the protest movement. Ukraine’s unrest began in November, when Mr Yanukovych rejected a deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia. The mood had calmed in recent days, but protest camps remain on the streets and the opposition – which insists the president must resign – had warned the government it risked inflaming tensions if it failed to act.
Source = BBC News
February 18, 2014
Ukraine’s demonstrators have feared a government assault on their main camp ever since they occupied large areas of central Kiev in December. Last night, that dreaded scenario appeared to come to pass when the security forces – including specialist riot police known as the “golden eagles” – were turned on the protesters with unprecedented ferocity. They broke through the biggest barricade on Grushevskogo street, once defended by hundreds of club-wielding demonstrators wearing masks, and recaptured Ukrainian House, a public building only a few hundred yards from the biggest protest camp in Independence Square, universally known as the “Maidan”. For the first time since the rallies began, the security forces penetrated this citadel, using tear gas, baton rounds and water cannon to suppress their opponents. Once inside the Maidan, they set the tents ablaze, lighting up Kiev’s version of Trafalgar Square with fire.
But thousands of protesters fought back and their leaders were still able to voice defiance. As flames burned around him, Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of the second biggest opposition party in Parliament, mounted a stage in the Maidan and declared: “We will not go anywhere from here. This is an island of freedom and we will defend it.” The opposition issued a general call for its supporters to flock to the Maidan. But the security forces, anticipating this move, sealed off the arterial roads leading to central Kiev and shut down the capital’s metro system. The interior ministry said that an “anti-terrorist” operation was underway and urged all women and children to leave the Maidan. The demonstrators had “crossed the line”, said a joint statement from the ministry and the internal security service, adding: “If atrocities do not stop by 1800, we will have to clean up this disorder by all means provided by law.” As the flames rose from the wreckage of the protest camp, at least nine people lay dead – two policemen and seven demonstrators – making this the bloodiest day that Ukraine has suffered since the country won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Source = The Telegraph
February 18, 2014
Hopes for a settlement of Ukraine‘s three-month crisis are evaporating amid scenes of rioting, burning buildings, police bombings and rubber bullets in Kiev that left up to thirteen people reported dead and nearly 200 seriously injured. A large section of the protest camp in the capital, Kiev, was engulfed in flames on Tuesday night as police advanced on the demonstrators using water cannons and stun grenades. The security services had earlier issued a warning, ordering tens of thousands of protesters to get off the streets by Tuesday evening or face a crackdown. The violence was some of the worst since a government-opposition confrontation erupted last November, and came after President Viktor Yanukovych, the main target of the protests, stalled on outlines of an agreement to appoint a new technocratic coalition government or to have his powers cut back.
Opposition organisers said seven civilians had been killed and around 150 injured, many seriously. The authorities said six police officers were killed and 39 officers sustained gunshot wounds. Columns of riot police sought to banish crowds of protesters from encroaching on the country’s parliament, while demonstrators also partially ransacked offices of Yanukovych’s political party. “Extremists are killing innocents on the streets of the capital, burning buildings and cars,” the statement from the security services said. “Unless the disorder stops, we will have to restore order by all means envisaged by law.” Both police and opposition leaders called on women and children to leave the protest camp on Kiev’s iconic Independence Square, known as the Maidan, as riot police began their assault. There were reports that riot police were firing smoke and stun grenades. Opposition sources said police snipers were firing on demonstrators from rooftops. According to reports, security services began moving in at around 6pm GMT after announcing over loudspeakers that they were about to conduct “an anti-terror operation”.
Source = The Guardian