Wounded people are seen after clashes with riot police in
central Kiev. REUTERS//Vlad Sodel
Ukrainian protesters hurled petrol bombs, fireworks and
stones at riot police on the edge of Kiev's Independence
Square, and nine people died in the worst day of violence since
demonstrations erupted against President Viktor Yanukovich.
Western powers warned Yanukovich against trying to smash the
12 week-old pro-European demonstrations and opposition leader
Vitaly Klitschko, fearing an assault, urged women and
children to leave the central square - also known as Maidan -
"to avoid further victims".
A police spokeswoman said seven civilians and two policemen
had died in Tuesday's clashes.
Earlier the State Security Service (SBU), in a joint
statement with the interior ministry, had set protesters a 6
p.m. (1600 GMT) deadline to end street disorder or face
Forces loyal to the Russian-backed president broke through
front-line barricades near the Dynamo Kiev soccer stadium and
advanced to the edge of the occupied Independence Square.
They were met after nightfall with a hail of petrol bombs and
fireworks, responding with bursts of water cannon.
Fires lit by protesters raged on the fringes of the square to
prevent police advancing as opposition speakers harangued the
crowd, interspersed with patriotic music.
The riot police 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.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said he had spoken
to Ukraine's acting prime minister, who had given assurances
that the authorities would try to avoid using live firearms.
"For the sake of the Ukrainians and for the sake of the
future of that country, I will pray that he is right," Fuele
told a public event in Brussels.
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
Clashes raged for several hours earlier 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 and interior ministry had
threatened tough action. "If by 6 p.m. the disturbances have
not ended, we will be obliged to restore order by all means
envisaged by law," their 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."
Right Sector, a militant far-right group, added to tension by
calling on people holding weapons to go to Independence
Square, centre of the revolt, to protect it from a possible
offensive by security forces.
As protesters and police battled on the streets of Kiev,
Russia called the escalation a "direct result of connivance
by Western politicians and European structures that have shut
their eyes ... to the aggressive actions of radical forces".
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has tried to
broker a power-sharing transition, urge Ukraine's leadership
"to address the root causes of the crisis".
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on all
parties to refrain from violence. Germany's foreign minister
telephoned his Ukrainian counterpart to warn against sliding
back into violence and keep working for a political solution.
Monday's $2 billion cash injection, a resumption of the $15
billion aid package, was seen as a signal that Russia
believes Yanukovich has a plan to end the protests and has
dropped any idea of bringing opposition leaders into
In another apparent gesture towards Moscow, a Ukrainian
government source said state gas company Naftogaz has paid
back $1.3 billion of its 2013 debt to Russian gas monopoly
Gazprom , although it still owes $1.5 billion.
Ukraine's hryvnia currency fell towards five-year lows after
the fresh outbreak of violence, with importers clamouring for
While Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have won the
battle for influence in Ukraine for now, protesters who have
occupied the centre of the capital are not going quietly.
"I think Russia received some kind of assurances from the
Kiev leadership that were satisfactory, because only a day
before there was nothing like it," said Gleb Pavlovsky,
former Kremlin adviser and political analyst in Moscow.
"I think Yanukovich showed he would stick firmly by his
position in talks (with the opposition), he would not make
excessive concessions, he would fight the radicals who are
getting stronger in the opposition ... and that the (new)
prime minister would not be a member of the opposition."
Yet rather than boosting Yanukovich, Moscow's move may have
helped to provoke a more violent turn in the protests,
especially from those demonstrators who have a strong
Several thousand protesters torched vehicles and hurled
stones. Police replied by firing rubber bullets and stun and
smoke grenades from trucks and from the tops of buildings,
forcing the protesters back by about 100 metres.
"The authorities do not want to compromise on any issue ...
We understand that yet another odious candidate will be put
forward (for prime minister), one who will be unable to
restore the economy or end the political crisis," said
Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, an opposition deputy.
Inside parliament, opposition leaders brought proceedings to
a halt by blocking the speaker's tribune and opposition
leader Klitschko urged Yanukovich to take riot police off the
streets to avert further "conflict in society".
The protesters had marched to parliament to back the
opposition leaders' calls for Yanukovich to relinquish what
they call his "dictatorial" powers and particularly his
control of the economy and the security forces.