Ukraine police poured into Independence Square in Kiev last night, driving out protesters in what the interior minister called an effort to clear the way for traffic and business. The New York Times reports that fights as well as small fires broke out, but police avoided using their truncheons. Police have since withdrawn, and interior minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said the protests wouldn't be dissolved; indeed, demonstrators quickly returned and still hold the square, the Washington Post reports.
"No one infringes on citizens’ rights to peaceful protests," Zakharchenko noted. "But we cannot ignore the rights and legal interests of other citizens." But opposition Fatherland Party leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk slammed the action, saying President Viktor Yanukovich had "spit in the face of America, EU countries, and 46 million Ukrainians." Top Western diplomats, including the EU's Catherine Ashton, also attacked the move. John Kerry also responded with "disgust," adding that the US "put the government on notice about our concern": "As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kiev, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine."