Truce fails, 22 more die in new Kiev clashes

Comment: Off

Activists and priests pay respects to protesters who were killed in clashes with police, a flag held by one activist reads “For Ukraine.” in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Fierce clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine’s capital have shattered the brief truce Thursday and an Associated Press reporter has seen dozens of bodies laid out on the edge of the protest encampment. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Activists and priests pay respects to protesters who were killed in clashes with police, a flag held by one activist reads “For Ukraine.” in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Fierce clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine’s capital have shattered the brief truce Thursday and an Associated Press reporter has seen dozens of bodies laid out on the edge of the protest encampment. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, in Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Ukraine’s protest leaders and the president they aim to oust called a truce Wednesday, just hours after the military raised fears of a widespread crackdown with a vow to defeat “terrorists” responsible for seizing weapons and burning down buildings. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

An anti-government protester holds a crucifix as he prays at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Ukraine’s protest leaders and the president they aim to oust called a truce Wednesday, just hours after the military raised fears of a widespread crackdown with a vow to defeat “terrorists” responsible for seizing weapons and burning down buildings. (AP Photo/ Marko Drobnjakovic)

An anti-government protester guards the barricade in front of riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, in Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Ukraine’s protest leaders and the president they aim to oust called a truce Wednesday, just hours after the military raised fears of a widespread crackdown with a vow to defeat “terrorists” responsible for seizing weapons and burning down buildings. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, in Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Ukraine’s protest leaders and the president they aim to oust called a truce Wednesday, just hours after the military raised fears of a widespread crackdown with a vow to defeat “terrorists” responsible for seizing weapons and burning down buildings. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A brief truce in Ukraine’s embattled capital failed Thursday, spiraling into fierce clashes between police and anti-government protesters that left at least 22 people dead. Government snipers were reported to be shooting at some of the protesters in Kiev.

At least 50 people have died this week in clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in a months-long crisis that had shown tentative steps toward compromise just days earlier.

President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition leaders who demand his resignation are locked in a decades-long battle over the identity of this nation of 46 million, whose loyalties are divided between Russia and the West. Parts of the country— mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government.

After urban street battles that were almost medieval in nature, an Associated Press reporter saw 21 bodies Thursday laid out on the edge of the sprawling protest encampment in central Kiev. In addition, one policeman was killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP.

Late Wednesday, Yanukovych met with opposition leaders and they called for a truce and negotiations. But the truce call appeared to have little credibility among hardcore protesters at Kiev’s Independence Square campsite.

One protest camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, tolded The AP that even after the truce call, protesters continued to throw firebombs at riot police on the square. As the sun rose, police pulled back, the protesters followed them and police began shooting at them, he said.

Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid, trying to protest themselves with shields.

Government snipers were shooting at some protesters in Kiev, according to an AP cameraman and a protester. Heavy paving stones, firebombs and more were sent flying toward police.

The Interior Ministry on Thursday said Kiev residents should limit their movements or stay home altogether because of the “armed and aggressive mood of the people.”

Neither side appears willing to compromise, with the opposition insisting on Yanukovych’s resignation and an early election and the president apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Amid the carnage, signs were emerging that Yanukovych is losing loyalists as the crisis roils. The chief of Kiev’s city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced Thursday he was leaving Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

“We must be guided only by the interests of the people, this is our only chance to save people’s lives,” he said, adding he would continue to fulfill his duties as long as he had the people’s trust.

Another influential member of the ruling party, Serhiy Tyhipko, said both Yanukovych and opposition leaders had “completely lost control of the situation.”

“Their inaction is leading to the strengthening of opposition and human victims,” the Interfax news agency reported.

In a statement Thursday, Yanukovych claimed that police were not armed and “all measures to stop bloodshed and confrontation are being taken.”

As the violence exploded and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries — France, Germany and Poland — met with Yanukovych, after their meeting with the opposition leaders.

Later Thursday in Brussels, the 28-nation European Union was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Ukraine, to consider sanctions against those behind the violence.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and

Comments

comments

About the Author