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Hotels in Kiev Are Being Turned into Morgues as the Death Toll Mounts

The ceasefire in Kiev was well and truly broken this morning as blood was shed once more. The death toll keeps rising. It's been reported that at least 37 people have been killed—mainly from police gunshots.

by Henry Langston
Feb 20 2014, 12:40pm

Protests find fuel for fires in Kiev last night.

Last night, protesters and police made an uneasy truce in Kiev, but this morning the ceasefire was well and truly broken as blood was shed once more in the streets of the Ukrainian capital. The death toll keeps rising. The Kyiv Post is reporting that at least 37 people have been killed—mainly from police gunshots. Yesterday, the country's Lviv region declared independence from the central government after protesters seized the prosecutor's office and the police surrendered.

President Yanukovych is today meeting with EU foreign ministers, and the EU will discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions. Yet it looks like Russia will prop up the Ukrainian economy by buying £1.2 billion in government bonds. Obama didn't think much of this, attacking Putin for Russia's role in the crisis and claiming to be "on the side of the people."

VICE UK’s news editor, Henry Langston, is on the streets of Kiev. He called us this morning to give us an update on the situation.

VICE: Hi, Henry. Things sound pretty horrible out there. What can you tell me?
Henry: I've already seen several bodies, which have definitely been hit by gunshots. One guy was wearing a Kevlar vest but without the armour plate; there was a huge hole in it with blood surrounding it. They draped the bodies in a Ukrainian flag. They were young men, possibly in their mid 20s. Earlier, some protesters were shot when they were charging towards some police vans.

Can you tell me how the truce broke down? I thought Yanukovych and the opposition leaders were trying to bring some stability to the situation.
At about 8 AM, the protesters re-took the parts of Independence Square that police had withdrawn from as part of the truce. In retaliation to that, the police opened fire. I have been shown rounds from handguns. There are lots of worried people; these people cannot fight against AK-47s. They have shields and clubs. We haven’t seen any guns on the protesting side. That said, there are reports that outside of Kiev a large number of weapons were seized by protesters who stormed government buildings.

Kiev's Independence Square

What’s going on right now?
I am currently outside Hotel Ukraine on Instytutska Street [next to Independence Square] and there is a sniper firing potshots. [Sound of a gunshot] Yup, that was another one. There are some barricades near the hotel, and there is only a couple of protesters on them—I think they’re basically pinned down. The hotel itself is basically like a makeshift triage center and a morgue right now. Medics here have counted 15 dead, who they think have been shot by snipers.

In the lobby of the hotel you've got the wounded being assessed and rushed to hospital and a row of dead bodies lined up, covered in shrouds. When the wounded started coming into the hospital, the doctors who happened to be staying there couldn't treat them, had no equipment to deal with serious bleeding.

Young members of the police force have been captured by protesters.

I’ve heard reports of the protesters capturing police. Have you seen anything like that?
We saw about 20 captured policemen being brought into one of the protester's tents—this is towards the City Hall, and there are a bunch of tents where the protesters sleep. They all looked very young. They were in their very early 20s and some of them were wounded. They were surrounded by protesters who were spitting on them, trying to punch them, but there were other protesters trying to stop that. And there were priests there trying to keep the peace.

A priest blesses a protester

What do you think will happen now? It feels like a line has been crossed. Some people are even talking about civil war.
I think civil war is a dangerous term, but it is scary. People are being killed in the street—it's terribly dark. People thought that line had been crossed back in January when four protesters had been killed. Then things calmed down, the anti-protest law was repealed, the Prime Minister resigned, and the amnesty law came into place, and that was a good thing. That has gone out of the window. There is a call for a snap election, but as of yet the government isn’t moving towards that. I think the police need to pull back because the protesters aren’t going to leave—that is pretty damn clear. The only way to remove these people is by force.

Thanks, Henry. Stay safe.

Dead bodies lined up on the streets of Kiev

Follow Henry and VICE UK on Twitter for updates: @Henry_Langston // @VICEUK