UKRAINE CRISIS: DEATH TOLL IS RISING

BBC News on February 19, 2014, reported that the latest upsurge of violence in Kiev has left 25 people dead. Excerpts below:

Riot police are continuing to storm the main anti-government protest camp.

Activists blamed the authorities for the worst violence in months of unrest.

In a statement, the health ministry said on Tuesday the number of dead on both sides had risen to 25. Nine of those killed were police, the interior ministry says. A journalist has also died.

Hundreds of people have been treated in hospital for injuries and there are fears the number of deaths could rise still further.

Explosions are taking place, fireworks are being thrown and large fires can been seen on Independence Square – known as the Maidan.

The latest assault began shortly after 04:00 local time, when police tried to move on the protesters’ tents. Several were set ablaze, and water cannon was later used.

But the protesters appear to have been able to hold their defence lines, burning tyres on the barricades.

In a statement on the morning of February 19, 2014, President Yanukovych said: “The opposition leaders have disregarded the principle of democracy according to which one obtains power not on the streets or maidans – but through elections.”

(Comment: This is of course incorrect as it is government forces that have attacked demonstrators).

Protesters have been defending barricades on the Maidan from repeated attacks by riot police

Hundreds of people have been injured on both sides since February 18, some of them seriously

Thousands of riot police have been deployed to fight the protesters.

Security forces had given the protesters a deadline of 18:00 on February 18 (16:00 GMT) to leave the square, the scene of a mostly peaceful protest camp since November 2013.

When the deadline expired, riot police advanced with an armoured vehicle, dismantling barricades and firing stun grenades and water cannon.

Protesters have been resisting, throwing missiles from behind piles of burning tyres.

In speeches from the main stage through the night, protest leaders urged people already on the Maidan to stand firm, and called on Ukrainians elsewhere to come to the square.

“This is an island of freedom and we will defend it,” said Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of the Udar (Punch) party.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who heads the Fatherland party, appealed to President Yanukovych to “stop the bloodshed and call a truce”.

Earlier on February 18, police blocked protesters from marching on parliament, where MPs had been due to debate proposed changes to the constitution which would have reduced the powers of the president.

The debate did not take place. Mr Yatsenyuk said President Yanukovych was blocking the reforms and that his allies “show no desire whatsoever to end the political crisis”.

Some protesters outside parliament ripped up cobblestones to throw at police. Police fired stun and smoke grenades as well as rubber bullets.

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