Kiev has turned into a battlefield as Ukrainian protesters violated earlier-reached agreements with the government and took to the streets, attacking police with rocks and firearms, seizing buildings, torching vehicles and burning tires.
Brutal confrontation reignited in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday morning, after the government refused to re-enact the Constitution adopted in 2004. Several thousand protesters clashed with police in central Kiev in the worst violence to rock the city in more than three weeks.
Since the beginning of the unrest in the former Soviet republic on November 21– after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the EU – the spirit of the protest has changed. Parts of Kiev on Tuesday are rather reminiscent of a war-torn city, rather than a site of a democratic protest.
What initially began mainly as peaceful demonstrations demanding reforms, has now turned into a violent revolt against the government with radical groups taking the lead.
As can be seen on multiple videos circulating on the internet, many of those who clashed with law enforcers on Tuesday look more like well-trained extremists rather than ordinary demonstrators. Wearing black masks, helmets, some also equipped with bulletproof vests, they pelted rocks and Molotov cocktails at riot police.
Even though the protest had initially been announced as peaceful, some protesters – apparently preparing for a violent scenario - had brought firearms with them. Meanwhile, the special police force did not use guns – they responded with water cannon, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the aggressive crowd. According to the Interior Ministry, at least five law enforcers were shot in the clashes.
Protesters also actively use social networks to agree on further actions and share information. Right-wing extremists from the Right Sector group have called on rioters who possess guns to make for central Independence Square (Maidan), and form defense squadrons “to protect” people against government forces if they use guns and armed vehicles against the protesting crowd.
So far, there have been conflicting reports on the number of wounded, with AFP, citing medics at an opposition-run hospital, writing about 150 injured. According to Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, around 100 people were wounded after protesters “broke the armistice.” In a statement, he blamed opposition leaders for the latest developments: “Today we’ve seen once again that only the government is interested in a peaceful settlement of the situation in the country.”
Two policemen have been killed in the clashes and around 100 were wounded, according to Ukrainian officials.Police said that many of the injured are in a serious condition and 21 suffered gunshot wounds.
Officials confirmed that three people died in the Central Officers’ House in Kiev, which had been seized by rioters. The Emergencies Ministry also reported that one person was found dead after a fire broke out in a building hosting the ruling Party of Regions office, which had earlier also been attacked by protesters.