18 Feb 2014

Battle for Kiev as Ukraine protests erupt into new violence

Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitschko is meeting President Viktor Yanukovich for emergency talks, as the death toll rises to at least 14.

Opposition leader Klitschko went to meet Yanukovich after riot police advanced onto a central Kiev square occupied by anti-government protesters. At least 14 people have died in the clashes.

Ukraine’s riot police advanced on the capital’s Independence Square on Tuesday, but stopped short entering the square. Protesters were given until 6pm (4pm GMT) to end public disturbance or face “tough measures”.

Earlier in the day police and protesters clashed in the worst violence in the city since January. Scores of policemen and protesters were injured in the melee, with demonstrators hurling paving stones at riot police.

I urge the leadership of Ukraine to address the root causes of the crisis. Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief

The police used rubber bullets, smoke and stun grenades on protesters, and clashed with civilians on the barricades surrounding Independence Square.

A Ukrainian parliamentary deputy said on Facebook that three demonstrators had been killed. In total, Ukrainian police said seven civilians had died in Tuesday’s clashes.

Ukraine’s police said that two policeman had died in clashes, one from gunshot wounds sustained to the neck, and added that 47 members of the police had been injured.

Below: pictures from Tuesday’s fresh Ukrainian violence.

The violence was also not limited to the streets of Kiev, as scuffles broke out in the parliament (see video, below).

Members of President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of Regions attempted to leave a session which opposition politicians were using to call for constitutional reform. Opposition politicians tried to prevent the session ending, and scuffles broke out.

Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitschko has arrived at President Viktor Yanukovich’s office for emergency talks.

Riot police have advanced onto a central Kiev square occupied by anti-government protesters with at 14 people now dead, both side have suffered casualties.

There have been demonstrations in Ukraine for the past three months, and have been marked by flares in violence.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday that she was “deeply worried” about the “grave new escalation”.

“I condemn all use of violence, including against public or party buildings,” she said in a statement.

“I urge the leadership of Ukraine to address the root causes of the crisis… Political leaders must now assume their shared responsibility to rebuild trust and create the conditions for an effective solution to the political crisis.”

Russia, however, blamed the fresh violence on western politicians, saying they had failed to condemn the actions of protesters.

“The atmosphere has worsened sharply in central Kiev,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “What is happening is the direct result of connivance by western politicians and European structures that have shut their eyes on the aggressive actions of radical forces from the very beginning of the crisis.”

Civil conflict

Last month Dr Olga Onuch from Oxford University told Channel 4 News that continuing violence could lead to a “civil conflict”.

She said there were three options: that the violence stops, that the political situation stagnates, or that either the regime or the protesters accelerate the clashes.

“The other options are that the regime pushes back with violence, or that more people across the country get involved in direct action or violent actions,” she said. “That option would leave me to believe there is potential for a civil conflict on the edge of the EU.

“This is far and away the worst option. If you had asked me in November I would never think that would be an option.”

Channel 4 News also revealed last month that injured activists were fleeing to neighbouring Lithuania for treatment, amid claims of “death squads” in Ukraine.