Anti-government protesters clash with police in front of the Ukrainian Parliment in Kiev yesterday.
KIEV: Ukrainian riot police stormed the main opposition camp in Kiev yesterday after clashes left at least seven dead in the bloodiest day in three months of protests, triggering international alarm.
Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko called on women and children to quit the encampment on Kiev’s iconic Independence Square as riot police began their assault.
But some 25,000 protesters remained on the square after the expiry of a 6pm (1600 GMT) ultimatum from security forces demanding calm be restored.
Police said five civilians and two policemen had died during a day of clashes that turned parts of central Kiev into a war zone.
Protesters seized back control of Kiev’s city hall, with around 30 activists setting up a first aid point inside the building, which the opposition had left on Sunday as part of an amnesty deal with the authorities, according to AFP reporters on the scene.
The European Union, UN, US and Nato all voiced concern over the clashes, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton saying she was “deeply worried about the grave new escalation”.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for restraint and dialogue, while Washington said it was “appalled” by the violence and said Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich must “de-escalate the situation”. Nato head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was “seriously concerned” and urged “all parties to refrain from violence and to urgently resume dialogue, including through the parliamentary process”.
Yesterday, saw the first violent clashes since mid-January in the Ukrainian capital, which has been wracked by anti-government demonstrations since President Viktor Yanukovich in November rejected an EU pact in favour of closer ties with historical master Russia.
Protesters briefly seized Yanukuvich’s party headquarters after several hundred attacked it with Molotov cocktails and smashed their way inside but later withdrew as smoke continued to billow from part of the building, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Fighting flared on Monday morning after some 20,000 mainly peaceful protesters marched from their sprawling tent encampment towards parliament to demand legislators strip the president of a raft of powers. Police fired rubber bullets and hurled smoke bombs and stun grenades at protesters who threw paving stones and set two trucks on fire while trying to break through to the heavily-fortified parliament.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that the clashes could lead to EU sanctions against individuals responsible for the violence.