Violence Continues In Ukraine As World Leaders Call Emergency Meetings To End Bloodshed
Clashes between protesters and police continued in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev Wednesday. The death toll in Ukraine has risen to 26, with many fearing it will continue to rise. Violence had erupted Tuesday in Kiev's Maidan, or "Independence Square," after Ukrainia police tried to drive two armored vehicles into the protesters' barricade. Those protesters had been occupying parts of Kiev since November in protest against Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovych.
According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, 10 police officers are among the dead, and hundreds are being treated for injuries. World leaders have pleaded with President Yanukovych to put an end to the bloodiest battle since the uprising began. Both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry personally appealed to Yanukovych to put a stop to the chaos.
“We call on President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government to de-escalate the situation immediately, and resume dialogue with the opposition on a peaceful path forward. Ukraine’s deep divisions will not be healed by spilling more innocent blood," wrote Kerry in a statement.
The European Union has called an emergency meeting of foreign-affairs ministers to discuss the situation and consider the possibility of imposing sanctions on the former Soviet republic. These sanctions could include travel bans and asset freezes. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will chair the meeting in Brussels Thursday.
German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, released a statement Tuesday evening, warnining the Ukrainian government against the use of force.
And British Foreign Secretary William Hague took to Twitter to express his outrage at the actions of Yanukovych's government, and to announce his plan to attend the emergency meeting.
The clash is thought to have been sparked by roughly 20,000 protesters marching toward Ukrainian parliament buildings in a move to support the opposition party's bid to revert to the country's 2004 constitution. This would have limited Yanukovych's powers and strengthened the power of the Ukrainian parliament. The march came hot on the heels of a $2 billion purchase of government bonds by Russia Monday, solidifying Yanukovych's allegiance to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Late Tuesday night, in an attempt to keep government forces at bay, the protesters formed a ring of fire around what was left of their camp. By Wednesday morning, the trade union building, where many protesters were sheltering, had been engulfed by uncontrollable flames.
Yanukovych has accused the opposition leaders of attempting a coup in a statement he released online in Russian. "Without having the mandate of the people, illegally, in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine, these so-called politicians, resorting to violence, arson and murder, attempted to seize power," the statement read.
Yanukovych insisted that he had always sought a peaceful approach to conflict resolution, but some of his advisers had been pushing him to take a harder line.
You can continue to monitor the situation in Independence Square on this live Web feed. (Warning: violent content.)