By Pavel Polityuk and Richard Balmforth | Reuters
Ukrainian protesters hurled petrol bombs, fireworks and stones at riot police on Tuesday, and at least nine people died in the worst day of violence since demonstrations erupted against President Viktor Yanukovich 12 weeks ago.
Western powers warned Yanukovich against trying to smash the pro-European demonstrations and opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko, fearing an assault, urged women and children to leave Kiev’s central Maidan square "to avoid further victims".
A police spokeswoman said seven civilians and two policemen had died in Tuesday’s clashes.
Forces loyal to the Russian-backed leader broke through front-line barricades near the Dynamo Kiev soccer stadium and marched to the edge of occupied Independence Square (Maidan). They moved in hours after Moscow gave Ukraine $2 billion in aid which it had been holding back to demand decisive action to crush the protests.
Nationwide protests against Yanukovich erupted in November after he bowed to Russian pressure and pulled out of a planned far-reaching trade agreement with the European Union, deciding instead to accept a Kremlin bailout for the former Soviet republic’s heavily indebted economy.
In what has become a geo-political tussle redolent of the Cold War, the United States and its Western allies are urging Yanukovich to turn back to Europe and the prospect of an IMF-supported economic recovery, while Russia accuses them of meddling.
Clashes raged for several hours on Tuesday outside the parliament building, where opposition lawmaker Lesya Orobets said three demonstrators were killed and taken to a nearby officers’ club used as a medical center. More than 100 people were injured, she said.
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Ukrainian rioters are reigniting street clashes with police in the capital Kiev, with opposition MPs attempting to paralyze the work of the parliament. Protesters are stoning police, with law enforcement responding with tear gas and stun grenades.
Security forces have started an anti-terrorist operation at Independence Square in Kiev. The Berkut police forces and three water cannon have gathered at the scene, while armored troop carriers have reportedly surrounded the square. Protesters are calling for women and children to leave the area immediately, while stun grenades are exploding at the scene.
Two police officers have been killed in the clashes on Tuesday, according to the Interior Ministry. One died from a gunshot wound to the neck while being transported in an ambulance, the other died from a gunshot wound later in hospital.
“95 police officers were injured, 21 of them received gunshot wounds, 23 are in serious condition, 3 are comatose and one is in a state of clinical death,” a police press service source added to Interfax-Ukraine.
Seven civilians died in the unrest on Tuesday, said the police, including one who died in the office of the Party of Regions, three in the House of the Officers, one from a gunshot wound on Mazepa street, two died of heart attacks at Institutskaya street, according to Interfax.