Hopes for a settlement of Ukraine's three-month crisis are evaporating amid scenes of rioting, burning buildings, police bombings and rubber bullets in Kiev that left up to nine protesters reported dead and more than 100 seriously injured.
Ukrainian protesters hurled petrol bombs, fireworks and stones at riot police on Tuesday, and at least nine people died in the worst day of violence since demonstrations erupted against President Viktor Yanukovich 12 weeks ago.
Western powers warned Yanukovich against trying to smash the pro-European demonstrations and opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko, fearing an assault, urged women and children to leave Kiev’s central Maidan square "to avoid further victims".
A police spokeswoman said seven civilians and two policemen had died in Tuesday’s clashes.
Forces loyal to the Russian-backed leader broke through front-line barricades near the Dynamo Kiev soccer stadium and marched to the edge of occupied Independence Square (Maidan). They moved in hours after Moscow gave Ukraine $2 billion in aid which it had been holding back to demand decisive action to crush the protests.
Nationwide protests against Yanukovich erupted in November after he bowed to Russian pressure and pulled out of a planned far-reaching trade agreement with the European Union, deciding instead to accept a Kremlin bailout for the former Soviet republic’s heavily indebted economy.
In what has become a geo-political tussle redolent of the Cold War, the United States and its Western allies are urging Yanukovich to turn back to Europe and the prospect of an IMF-supported economic recovery, while Russia accuses them of meddling.
Clashes raged for several hours on Tuesday outside the parliament building, where opposition lawmaker Lesya Orobets said three demonstrators were killed and taken to a nearby officers’ club used as a medical center. More than 100 people were injured, she said.
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