Thursday, February 20, 2014

Death Toll Climbs as Police and Protestors Clash in Ukrainian Capital

At least 77 people were killed in Kiev on Thursday after Ukrainian officials claimed that riot police opened fire on antigovernment demonstrators advanced on their positions around government buildings.
Ambulances ferried dead and wounded to hospitals after a truce that had been declared Wednesday night fell apart hours later. At a makeshift medical center inside a cathedral, some two dozen doctors from across the country treated those they could as a steady stream of cars delivered medicine, food and other supplies.

Medics working with the opposition said that most of the casualties were civilians, clad in motorcycle helmets and carrying homemade shields fashioned from wood and metal, apparently shot by snipers.

Several corpses, some covered in sheets, others in Ukrainian flags, were laid out on Kiev's main street and in the lobby of a downtown hotel, which served as a first-aid station and a morgue.

The death toll for the week climbed to 77, according to the government; opposition representatives put it at more than 100. Ukraine's Interior Ministry said 16 police officers were among the dead.

Independence Square in Kiev in April 2009, left, when a Ukrainian student group formed a smiley face, and on Thursday, as protesters inspected damage from recent clashes with government forces. .

Both sides braced themselves for more fighting. On Kiev's Independence Square, protesters buttressed their defenses and their chants against the president turned from "Get the criminal out" to "Death to the criminal."

In addition to the 16 police officers the Ukrainian Interior Ministry claimed were killed in clashes with demonstrators while the antigovernment protestors who had been camped out in Kiev's Independence Square to demonstrate against President Yanukovytch's vote against closer ties with the European Union claimed that police snipers shot and killed 20 in the demonstrator's camp. The EU decision by Yanukovytch's cabinet prompted fears that the Ukraine would fall back into the Kremlin's sphere of influence barely 20 years after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Protestors also seized the central Post Office in Kiev and the interior ministry claimed that they had also overrun a police station in suburban Kiev and were able to loot the armory. Ukrainian television networks showed video of some of the protestors being cut down by police gunfire while demonstrators claimed to have hindered reinforcements from arriving by blocking streets and captured 67 police officers amid clashes.

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