Violence escalates in Ukraine as third person dies
A third person has died during clashes between radical protesters and police in central Kiev, marking a serious escalation in the political crisis that has gripped Ukraine for more than two months.
Violence broke out when police attempted to dismantle a camp set up by protesters demanding the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych, using tear gas in their onslaught.
Doctors at the opposition headquarters on Independent Square reported that two protesters died of gunshot wounds – one almost certainly from a live round, the other from a plastic bullet – early yesterday, following a third night of violence on the capital's streets.
The third was believed to have fallen from the top of the 40-foot gate to the Dinamo football stadium, the site of fierce clashes since Sunday, and died of his injuries.
Two others died of bullet wounds near barricades outside the stadium. Doctors said the first of the two was killed by rubber bullets. But they added that they were almost certain that the second man was killed by a live round.
'Ukrainianskaya Pravda', a newspaper, identified one of the shot men as Sergei Nigoyan, a 20-year-old activist from Dnipropetrovsk. He reportedly died from four wounds, including one to his throat and another to his head.
The men appear to have been killed as riot police using rubber bullets, tear gas and thunder flashes overran protesters positions just before 8am local time.
In a vicious fight, the police retook a line of burnt out emergency vehicles that had marked the frontline since Monday and forced the rioters back 200 yards, before retreating in the face of fierce opposition.
Clashes continued for some hours after the skirmish, with several hundred riot police and protesters exchanging Molotov cocktails and rubber bullets at short range as they battled over a burnt-out bus outside the stadium.
The morning's violence only ended when a priest led peaceful protesters into no-man's land with hands raised, bringing the first respite after three nights of violence.
It followed a night-long stand-off during which rioters and police fought long range duels with fireworks, petrol bombs and laser pointers, but avoided the hand-to-hand clashes that had marked two previous evenings of unrest.
A small line of steel-nerved priests who stood for most of the night in no-man's land, in an effort to separate the two sides, bore the brunt of the fireworks and thunder-flash attacks, but held their ground despite the violence and sub-zero temperatures.
While the battle on Ulitsa Grushevskovo resembles a medieval battle field, the violence is relatively contained. (© Daily Telegraph, London)