Violent Protests Erupt in Ukraine; Seven Killed

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Anti-government protesters react as a smoke grenade explodes near the Vekhovnaya Rada building, Ukraine's house of parliament, in Kiev on Tuesday. Reuters
Anti-government protesters react as a smoke grenade explodes near the Vekhovnaya Rada building, Ukraine’s house of parliament, in Kiev on Tuesday. Reuters

KIEV, Feb 18 — Violent clashes have erupted between protesters and police in central Kiev, with Ukrainian opposition sources saying at least seven people have died, BBC reported.

Police used rubber bullets and stun grenades to stop thousands of protesters marching on parliament, where politicians had been due to debate constitutional changes.

Crowds also forced their way into the headquarters of the governing party

The changes are aimed at curbing President Viktor Yanukovych’s powers.

The opposition had repeatedly warned that failure to act would further inflame mass anti-government protests – and these have reignited after a period of relative calm.

Ukraine’s unrest began in November, when Mr Yanukovych backed away from an association and free trade deal with the European Union, and instead agreed to a large loan from Russia.

Russia’s foreign ministry said the latest violence was a “direct result of connivance by Western politicians and European structures that have shut their eyes… on the aggressive actions of radical forces”, reported Reuters news agency.

Moscow wants Ukraine to join the Russia-led customs union, which also has Belarus and Kazakhstan as members.

The EU and Russia have accused each other of interfering in Ukraine’s affairs.

Tens of thousands of protesters trying to march on the parliament building were blocked by lines of police vehicles, according to reports from Kiev.

Some ripped up cobblestones to throw at police, and others threw smoke bombs, while police responded with stun and smoke grenades, and rubber bullets.

Protesters attacked the headquarters of President Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, temporarily smashing their way in before being forced out by police, reported 5 Kanal TV.

Opposition MP Lesya Orobets – a member of the Batkivshchyna party – said on her Facebook page that the bodies of three protesters were inside a building close to parliament. A number of medical workers operating in opposition field hospitals gave the same number of dead.

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