Death toll mounts in Ukraine
Scores of new protesters and police officers are dead after a truce breaks, as officials scramble to find a peaceful solution.PT1M30S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-334x0 620 349 February 21, 2014
Kiev: Ukraine's descent into a spiral of violence accelerated as protesters and riot police officers used firearms in a clash apparently intended to reclaim areas of Independence Square, while the European Union agreed to impose sanctions on Ukrainians with "blood on their hands".
The fighting in the symbolic central plaza that had been retaken by police two days before shattered a truce declared just hours earlier. Just after dawn, young men in ski masks opened a breach in their barricade near a stage on the square, ran across a hundred yards of smouldering debris and surged toward riot police officers who were firing at them with shotguns.
Protesters pushed back the police in a continual racket of gunshots and by around 10am had recaptured the entire square, but at the cost of creating a scene of mayhem.
First aid workers attend to injured protesters in Independence Square on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
The fighting left bodies lined up on a footpath, makeshift clinics crammed with the wounded, and sirens and gunfire ringing through the center of the city.
Eleven bodies were taken to a makeshift morgue at the entrance to Independence Square on Thursday and an undetermined number were lying elsewhere. Around 28 people, including police officers, died in clashes earlier this week.
Kiev's city health department said 67 people had been killed since Tuesday, which meant at least 39 died in Thursday's clashes, Reuters reported.
Protesters defy security forces in Kiev on Thursday. Photo: Getty Images
The Interior Ministry said 29 police officers had been hospitalised with gunshot wounds.
Meanwhile, the European Union agreed to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Ukrainians with "blood on their hands", Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Emma Bonino said.
EU foreign ministers agreed on Thursday to impose sanctions on Ukraine, including visa bans, asset freezes and restrictions on the export of anti-riot equipment, ministers and officials said. The restrictions, to be drafted into law in the coming days, will apply to those involved with ordering or orchestrating the violence in Kiev. that has left nearly 60 people dead.
Protesters battle with police in Independence Square, Kiev, on Thursday, shattering the fragile truce called by President Victor Yanukovych. Photo: Getty Images
Ms Bonino said EU nations also agreed to offer medical assistance and visas to the injured and to dissidents.
The decision to impose sanctions was taken in agreement with three EU envoys in Kiev, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and PolandThey had several hours of talks with President Viktor Yanukovych as well as with the three main leaders of the opposition.
In Kiev, demonstrators captured several dozen policemen, whom they marched, dazed and bloodied, toward the center of the square through a crowd of men who heckled and shoved them.
Smoke from burning barricades rise above Independence Square on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
"There will be many dead today," Anatoly Volk, 38, one of the demonstrators, said. He was watching stretchers carry dead and wounded men down a stairway slick with mud near the Hotel Ukraina.
Mr Volk said the protesters had decided to try to retake the square because they believed the truce announced around midnight was a ruse. The young men in ski masks who led the push, he said, believed it was a stalling manoeuver by Mr Yanukovych, to buy time to deploy troops in the capital after discovering that the civilian police had insufficient forces to clear the square.
"A truce means real negotiations," Mr Volk said. "They are just delaying to make time to bring in more troops. They didn't have the forces to storm us last night. So we are expanding our barricades to where they were before. We are restoring what we had."
Kiev in crisis: The streets become a warzone
A bloodstained stretcher used by the protesters. Photo: Reuters
Several thousand young men carrying clubs advanced up a street near government buildings and parliament and stopped at a line of riot police officers. The fighting halted as they negotiated with a police commander there. The protesters cleared a corridor so an ambulance, apparently carrying wounded policemen, could drive out from the police position through their crowd.
On Independence Square, the wounded were taken to improvised clinics set up in a shoe store and a post office after the main medical center in the occupied Trade Unions Building had burned on Tuesday night. The dead were lying on a sidewalk beside the Kozatskiy Hotel, were nine bodies were laid out under blankets by around 11am.
Gunfire crackled around the Hotel Ukraina and protesters were hit in front of the Globus shopping mall. One protester walked near the fighting with a double-barreled shotgun slung over a shoulder.
"If our guys are dying, excuse me, what can I say," said the man, who offered only his first name, Oleg. "If they didn't use guns, the idea never would have come to us."
The wide use of firearms in the centre of the city was a new and ominous phase for the protest movement.
Supporters of the opposition this week overran an Interior Ministry garrison near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and captured its armory, in an indication of forceful measures opponents of Mr Yanukovych appear ready to employ; it was unclear whether any of the commandeered weapons were being used Thursday in the fighting in the capital.
Most of the shooting previously had involved nonlethal rubber bullets. Nonetheless, during the fighting on Tuesday, at least 25 people died, including nine police officers.
From the stage on the square, a speaker yelled, "Glory to Ukraine!" and the crowd yelled back, "Glory to its heroes!"
The part of the square back under the control of the protesters after Thursday's fighting was an otherworldly panorama of soot-smeared paving stones, debris and coils of smoldering wire from burned tires.
The protests began in November when Mr Yanukovych rejected a trade and economic agreement with the European Union and turned instead to Russia for financial aid.
The authorities had announced on Wednesday a nationwide "anti-terrorist operation" to keep guns and power from what they called extremist groups, and they dismissed the country's top general. But later they declared that a truce had been reached with political leaders of the opposition, who confirmed that overnight.
The party website of an opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko, said the opposition had received assurances that there would be "no assault" on the main protest site, although even then it was uncertain that a pause in the conflict would hold, particularly among more determined street fighters. In fact, hours later, they attacked.
The New York Times, Reuters, AFP
Crisis in Kiev
The main developments in Ukraine since a political crisis erupted three months ago, leaving around 60 dead:
21: Ukrainian authorities suspend talks on an Association Agreement with the European Union in favour of closer economic relations with Russia, prompting pro-European opposition groups to call for protests.
1: A crowd of up to 500,000 demonstrators gathers on Kiev's Independence Square, setting up camp and building barricades.
11: Security forces move against the protestors but are forced back.
17: President Viktor Yanukovych travels to Moscow where he secures a $15-billion bailout deal and a huge price cut for Russian gas.
19: Dozens are wounded in bloody clashes between police and protesters in Kiev after 200,000 defy new restrictions on protests.
22: Demonstrations continue. Police smash barricades in central Kiev. Protesters hurl rocks and firebombs at police, who respond with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
28: Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigns, parliament scraps the anti-protest laws.
2: Opposition leaders call for international mediation and Western financial aid in front of more than 60,000 demonstrators in Kiev.
4: The opposition calls for concessions at a heated parliament session in which former boxer Vitali Klitschko calls for an "end to the dictatorship".
5-6: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and top US envoy to Europe Victoria Nuland visit Kiev.
7: Mr Yanukovych meets his ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
9: Some 70,000 protesters gather on Independence Square.
10: The EU stops short of any immediate threat of sanctions.
14: All 234 protesters who have been arrested since December are released but charges against them remain.
16: Protesters evacuate Kiev city hall after occupying the building since December 1, along with other public buildings in the regions. Protesters who were arrested are granted an amnesty the next day. Tens of thousands gather on Independence Square.
18/19: 28 people, including 10 police officers, are killed as violence surges on Independence Square. Protestors reoccupy Kiev's city hall. Riot police launch an assault overnight.
19: Mr Yanukovych replaces the head of the armed forces and security forces announce an "anti-terrorist" operation. Western powers condemn the violence and threaten sanctions.
20: Demonstrators charge a police line in Kiev, shattering a truce called by Mr Yanukovych less than a day earlier. At least 25 protesters are killed. The interior ministry says two police officers were shot dead.