February 18

Ukrainian riot police move against Kiev protest camp

The violence is the deadliest in nearly three months of protests that have paralyzed the nation’s capital.

By Maria Danilova
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Monuments to Kiev’s founders burn as anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, on Tuesday.

The Associated Press

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Riot police clash with anti-government protesters outside Ukraine’s parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Some thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with police in a new eruption of violence Tuesday.

The Associated Press

While Kiev and western Ukraine have risen up against Yanukovych, he remains popular in the Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, where economic and cultural ties with Russia are strong.

As darkness fell, law enforcement agencies vowed to bring order to the streets and they shut down subway stations in the center of the capital. In Independence Square, Orthodox priests prayed for peace.

“We see that this regime again has begun shooting people; they want to sink Ukraine in blood. We will not give in to a single provocation,” opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the protesters. “We will not take one step back from this square. We have nowhere to retreat to. Ukraine is behind us, Ukraine’s future is behind us.”

Tuesday’s clashes were the first to lead to deaths since Jan. 22, when two protesters were hit with live ammunition and a third died after a fall.

As angry protesters outside parliament hurled stones at police and set trucks blocking their way on fire, riot police retaliated with stun grenades and fired what appeared to be small metal balls, as smoke from burning tires and vehicles billowed over Kiev.

Early Wednesday morning, government agencies said 18 people died in the violence, including seven policemen who died from gunshot wounds. Eleven civilians also died, including three who were shot. A police spokeswoman said 159 police were wounded, including 39 who were shot.

The coordinator for the opposition’s medical response team, Oleh Musiy, said more than 400 protesters were injured. He also claimed that about 20 had died, but this could not independently be confirmed.

One of the civilians was found dead after protesters stormed the office of the president’s Party of Regions. Police pushed them away, but when firefighters arrived to put out a fire, they discovered the body of an office employee, Kiev’s emergency services said.

Justice Minister Olena Lukash, a close Yanukovych aide, accused the opposition of violating earlier agreements with the government and blamed protest leaders for the violence.

In Washington, Vice President Joe Biden expressed his “grave concern” in telephone call to Yanukovych, urging him to pull back government forces and exercise maximum restraint. The White House said Biden also called on Ukraine’s government to address the protesters’ “legitimate grievances” and put forward proposals for political reform.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged both sides to end the violence, halt their ultimatums and hold high-level talks.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey R. Payatt also threatened both sides with sanctions. “We believe Ukraine’s crisis can still be solved via dialogue, but those on both sides who fuel violence will open themselves to sanctions,” Payatt said on Twitter.

Germany has refused to back Washington’s calls for sanctions against Ukraine’s government to pressure it into accepting opposition demands for reforms.

But when central Kiev exploded in violence Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Ukrainian security forces have a “particular responsibility” to de-escalate the situation, adding that the EU might resort to unspecified sanctions against individuals. “Whoever is responsible for decisions that lead to bloodshed in the center of Kiev or elsewhere in Ukraine will need to consider that Europe’s previous reluctance for personal sanctions must be rethought,” he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the West for the escalation of the violence and called on the opposition to work with the government to find a way out of the crisis.

“What is happening is a direct result of the conniving politics of Western politicians and European bodies,” the ministry said in a statement.

Associated Press writers Yuras Karmanau in Kiev, Lynn Berry and Laura Mills in Moscow and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

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