Kiev Now a 'Battle Zone,' With 26 Dead

Chaos in Ukraine as police launch fresh assault against protesters
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2014 3:19 AM CST
Updated Feb 19, 2014 7:53 AM CST

(Newser) – At least 26 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the worst violence in Ukraine's post-Soviet history, according to the country's health ministry, which says the dead include 10 police officers and a journalist. The mayhem began as anti-government protesters clashed with security forces yesterday, and it continued overnight, with riot police making a fresh attempt to clear a central Kiev square in the early hours, reports the BBC, which witnessed police gain control of a corner of the square for the first time since December. As of 6am, a BBC correspondent reported "no sign these clashes will die down," calling the Independence Square area a "battle zone." The latest developments:

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  • As thousands of police attacked the square, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged civilians to defend the protest camp; at least 10,000 heeded his call amid fires and exploding stun grenades, the AP reports. CNN reports that protesters fashioned a makeshift compressed-air cannon and stockpiled weapons last night, transporting stones from hand to hand, building Molotov cocktails, and fueling fiery barricades composed of wood and tires.
  • The EU and Germany are among those calling for calm, while the governments of France and Poland got more specific: They're calling for "quick and targeted sanctions against those responsible for these acts." Reuters reports that Francois Hollande wants to see them imposed as soon as tomorrow, at an EU meeting of foreign ministers. Meanwhile, Russia called the chaos the "direct result of connivance by Western politicians," Reuters finds.
  • After late-night talks between President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders failed to yield any compromise, the president issued a statement calling for opposition leaders to draw a "boundary between themselves and radical forces which are provoking bloodshed." The opposition leaders said that Yanukovich's only proposal was for the demonstrators to go home.
  • Ukraine's Olympic committee said in a statement that it was "shocked" and "doing our best to honor (loved ones back home) on the fields of play here in Sochi. We appeal for peace and mutual understanding, to find a positive way forward for Ukraine." Meanwhile, the IOC rejected the Ukrainian delegation's request to wear black armbands to honor the dead, notes the AP.
(Read more Ukraine stories.)

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