Renewed clashes between Ukraine police and protesters after three killed
There were further clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Kiev today, after three people were killed overnight in the latest outbreak of violence.
As reports described the center of the Ukrainian capital as having become a battle zone, the government was defiant in the face of the deaths, with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov saying “terrorists” were on the streets, while EU foreign police Catherine Ashton spoke of her “extreme worry” that people had been killed.
Much of the violence has been in an area near Independence Square, with police dressed in riot gear having stormed the positions of protesters, who responded by hurling stones and Molotov cocktails. Reports said tires were set alight by protesters trying to set up new barricades to prevent their positions being stormed by police, who responded by driving an armored personnel carrier into the area.
Overnight, two people were shot dead and a third was killed after falling off the Dynamo football stadium, home of the Dynamo Kiev football team, according to reports.
The authorities have insisted that police were not armed and have not fired on protesters, who have been involved in clashes despite calls from opposition leaders for anti-government campaigns to remain peaceful.
The deaths were the first since campaigners took to the streets in late November over the decision by the president, Viktor Yanukovych, to cancel a trade deal with the European Union. He has since agreed an aid package with Russia. In recent days, the anti-government campaigns have taken on renewed energy after the parliament agreed laws to restrict protests.
“Terrorists from [Independence Square] seized dozens of people and beat them. I am officially stating that these are criminals who must answer for their action,” Azarov reportedly told a cabinet meeting.
Taking what appeared to be a more conciliatory line than the prime minister, Yanukovych said people should ignore “political radicals” he said were responsible for the latest violence.
A far-right group called Right Sector, part of what analysts have said is a diverse informal coalition of anti-government campaigners, is said to have been heavily involved in some of the latest violence, which has seen 167 police and an unknown number of protesters injured.
According to reports, 50 people were arrested and held on Tuesday night, 29 of whom were charged for their part in what was described as mass unrest.
In a statement, Ashton said she “strongly condemn[ed] the violent escalation of events in Kyiv” and called on “everyone involved to ensure restraint.”
“The use of force and resorting to violence is not an answer to the political crisis. All acts of violence must come to an immediate end and be swiftly investigated. Those responsible will have to be held to account,” she said.
“Ukrainian citizens’ rights of assembly, freedom of expression and media must be fully respected and protected. I am deeply concerned about attacks on journalists and about reports of missing persons.”
She said a “genuine dialogue at the highest level” was needed to resolve the situation. The US embassy in Kiev has revoked the visas of several individuals said to have been involved in the clashes.
Yanukovych is believed Wednesday to have met opposition figures, including the former boxing world champion, Vitaly Klitschko, who is among those keen for the country to strengthen ties with the EU instead of Russia.
Earlier this week it was announced that a cross-party commission had been set up under the country’s national security chief, Andriy Klyuyev, to try to find a negotiated solution that would end the violence.