Just hours after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and political opposition leaders agreed to a truce in Kiev as they worked to negotiate a peaceful solution to the country’s political crisis, clashes in the city again turned deadly. The body count spiked as violence erupted between police and protesters early Thursday morning:
The fighting centered around Independence Square, where the Euromaidan encampment has stood since November. Sniper fire was widely reported, and police can be seen firing from an embankment in this footage from Radio Free Europe:
In this footage, also from Radio Free Europe, protesters take cover as shots ring out around them. The protesters show evidence that live ammunition is being used against them, and the wounded are seen being rushed from the area on stretchers:
A doctor working with the protesters reported that at least 70 people have been killed and hundreds wounded. Protesters carried the injured on stretchers through the streets of Kiev to the Ukraine Hotel to receive emergency first aid:
Internal Affairs Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko echoed the unrepentant attitude of the ruling party, saying in this video message that protesters in the country were “warned about criminal responsibility” but “didn’t listen." Zakharchenko said that 29 police officers had received gunshot wounds, and asserted that the “opposition provoked all this violence.” Affirming the power of the police, he stated that they would “do all they can to keep law and peace”.
Meanwhile, the head of Kiev's city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced in a video statement that he had resigned from Yanukovych’s ruling party. Makeyenko said he would continue as Kiev city chief in a personal capacity, and indicated that the subway, which has been closed, would soon resume service. He said that he feels personally responsible for what is happening in his city.
Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko also issued an urgent appeal for calm early on February 20. Klitschko, leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, reiterated a call for Yanukovych to hold early presidential elections. "This is the only way to stop the violence,” he said. “I appeal to every citizen: Unite to protect their life, health and property. . . . We must stop the bloodshed!"
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