Fiery Street Battles Mark Deadliest Day for Ukraine Protests

   < < Go Back
from The Wall Street Journal,

Government Moves to Clear Kiev Encampments, Provoking Pitched Battles.

Violence between protesters and police turned deadly in Kiev, Ukraine

Weeks of stalemate between the government and protesters here were shattered Tuesday by a burst of deadly violence that provoked a massive crackdown.

Authorities stormed the activists’ encampments in the center of the capital, leading to fiery battles that lasted into the night.

At least 18 people were killed, and the number of injured climbed into the hundreds as police advanced into Kiev’s Independence Square, the heart of the protest movement, with the flash and thud of concussion grenades. As fighting progressed, so did the weaponry; many of the injured arrived at makeshift hospitals with gunshot wounds.

At a hastily assembled medical center near the gold-domed St. Michael’s cathedral above the square, doctors set up tables to treat the more seriously injured protesters. Early Wednesday, the government said seven police officers and 11 protesters had died in the violence, the Associated Press reported.

The fighting marked the bloodiest day by far since the political crisis began late last year over President Viktor Yanukovych’s pivot toward Moscow, spurning closer relations with the West.

The violence now threatens to split the country. In western provinces where pro-Europe, antigovernment sentiment runs strong, protesters set fire to police stations, seized weapons and disarmed police forces.

While the U.S. and European leaders condemned the violence and urged Mr. Yanukovych to compromise, Moscow, which on Monday announced it was restoring a financial lifeline to Mr. Yanukovych’s government, blamed the conflict on Western meddling and “radical forces” in the country.

More From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):