At least three demonstrators have been killed in Ukraine’s capital Kiev as violent clashes continued in the city on Wednesday. They are the first fatalities in months of protest in the country.
Two of the victims were found with gunshot wounds, the country’s general prosecutor said. A third person is believed to have died after falling from the city’s Dynamo football stadium, which is next to the demonstrations, in a fight with police.
Protesters said five activists had been killed and 300 were wounded in a day of intense clashes with security forces.
"As of now, five people have been killed. Around 300 were wounded today from midnight," said Oleg Musiy, the coordinator of the protestors’ medical service, in an interview with pro-opposition Hromadske radio.
The Ukrainska Pravda news website said four of the five people killed had died of gunshot wounds.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said earlier on Wednesday that police did not possess firearms and the interior ministry has denied that police have used guns during the crisis.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Wednesday met with opposition leaders, including former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko.
Yanukovych earlier urged protesters not to follow "political radicals" and said he wanted to halt the "bloodletting".
Protesters ‘at the end of their rope’
Kiev has been gripped by protests since November, after Yanukovich backed out of a trade agreement with the European Union to negotiate a financial aid deal with Russia instead. The demonstrations, however, have turned increasingly violent over the past few days, after the government passed new legislation limiting acts of protest.
On Wednesday police forced their way through barricades that had been set up by demonstrators near Grushevsky Street in central Kiev. Protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails and stones, while police used rubber bullets and tear gas.
“These crowds of protesters, outside in extreme weather conditions for the past two months, are beside themselves with anger,” Annie Daubenton, a journalist specialising in Ukraine, told FRANCE 24. “They are at the end of their rope.”
Gulliver Cragg, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Kiev, reported that the demonstrators had grown increasingly diverse. “At the beginning, the people confronting the police were from the far right,” he said. “Today, there are also far less radical protesters who are just fed up, and who are joining forces with people from the far right, against their common enemy: the government.”
EU condemns ‘escalation of events’
The European Union quickly condemned the violence, calling on the government and the opposition to engage in talks.
“I strongly condemn the violent escalation of events in Kiev overnight leading to casualties. The reported deaths of several protesters is a source of extreme worry,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the United States embassy in Kiev announced that it had revoked the visas of a number of Ukrainians in response to how the protests have been handled.
“In response to actions taken against protesters ... in November and December of last year, the US embassy has revoked the visas of several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence,” a statement said.
It did not identify anyone by name, but added it was considering further action against those responsible for the current violence.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
Clashes in Kiev
The atmosphere in Kiev has been surreal since clashes between police (here pictured below their riot shields)and pro-Europe protesters broke out on Sunday, January 19. (All photo credits AFP)
The centre of the Ukrainian capital has become a war zone, with several people killed and hundreds injured.
Encounters between police and protesters have grown increasingly violent. Here, a police officer throws a Molotov cocktail toward protesters.
Meanwhile, protesters prepare to strike...
...while trying to avoid the police crackdown.
The crowds of pro-Europe protesters have swelled and the demonstrators have grown rowdier.
Police have responded violently, with hundreds of protesters reporting injuries.
The violence has also caused extensive material damage. Here, officers try to push an overturned police vehicle upright.
Ukrainian opposition activists are arming themselves with protective gear stolen from police.
Positioned between the two clashing sides, an Orthodox priest tries to reason with both camps, his efforts so far in vain.
Date created : 2014-01-22