Roland Oliphant in Kiev and Hannah Strange — Telegraph.co.uk Jan 22, 2014
At least two demonstrators were reported to have been killed in Kiev as fresh clashes erupted in the early hours of Wednesday between police and protesters demanding the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Violence broke out when police attempted to dismantle a protest camp, using tear gas to repel demonstrators.
Protesters shouted “Murderers!” and “Glory to Ukraine!” in the centre of the country’s capital as reports spread that a man had been shot dead by a police sniper and that another had fallen to his death during the fighting.
Police earlier reported that one demonstrator had died and the Telegraph was unable to immediately confirm claims of further deaths.
But an AP reporter saw medics declare two people dead near the barricades in the capital, both from bullet wounds, though it was not specified whether they were rubber or real bullets. A Reuters cameraman was shown the body of a man with gunshot wounds to the head.
It was not immediately clear whether the victim seen by Reuters was one of those declared dead by medics, or whether the latter included the death confirmed by police.
The deadly battles erupted following two nights of clashes after the Ukrainian government passed a strict package of anti-protest laws designed to crack down on demonstrators who have spent several weeks on the streets of the capital.
After a night long standoff, police seemed finally to have decided to push the protesters away from their barricades on Grushevsky Street. Riot police stormed and destroyed barricades, pushing rioters back to a line of burnt out police buses that they had captured in the previous day’s rioting.
Police then retreated to their original positions but vicious skirmishes continued between groups of policemen firing rubber bullets and small but very determined groups of rioters equipped with clubs and homemade shields.
Both sides hurled molotov cocktails back and forth, the police having taken to throwing them back at the rioters, setting them on fire more than once but failing to shift them from their positions.
The protesters are demanding the resignation of Mr Yanukovych and the adoption of a European trade and association pact abandoned under pressure from Russia, which wants Ukraine to remain in its sphere of influence.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov warned on Tuesday that the security forces could use force to remove the protesters.
He told Russian television that if the “provocateurs” did not retreat, security forces could use the controversial new measures that essentially prohibit large protests in the country.
Critics have denounced the new laws as a “dictatorship bill”.
On Tuesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the situation in Ukraine was spiralling out of control and urged European governments not to interfere despite heavy criticism of the government response.