70 protesters killed, 500 wounded in Kiev

70 protesters killed, 500 wounded in Kiev

Tossing firebombs, protesters advanced upon police lines today in Ukraine's embattled capital, eve as government snipers shot back, killing at least 70 people and wounding hundreds of others, according to a protest doctor.

Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes today of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid.
Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or planks of wood.

One of the wounded, volunteer medic Olesya Zhukovskaya, sent out a brief Twitter message, "I'm dying", after being shot in the neck. Dr Oleh Musiy, the medical coordinator for the protesters, said she was in serious condition after being operated on.

Musiy told the AP that at least 70 protesters were killed today and over 500 were wounded in the clashes and that the death toll could well rise further.

In Brussels, the 28-nation European Union decided in an emergency meeting today to impose sanctions against those behind the violence in Ukraine. The US is considering whether to join the EU sanctions.

Protesters were also seen leading policemen with their hands held high around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev.

Ukraine's Interior ministry says 67 police were captured in all, it was not clear how. An opposition lawmaker said they were being held in Kiev's occupied city hall.

President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who are demanding his resignation are locked in an epic battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West.
Parts of the country,  mostly in its western cities, are in open revolt against Yanukovych's central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favour strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.
Protesters across the country are also upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights and the country's ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with a USD 15 billion loan from Russia.
At least 101 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in three months of mostly peaceful protests.
Today was the deadliest day yet at the sprawling protest camp on Kiev's Independence Square, also called the Maidan. (AP) ASK 02210043

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Neither side appears willing to compromise or in control of the streets. The opposition is insisting on Yanukovych's resignation and an early election while the embattled president is apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Snipers were seen shooting at protesters there, and video footage showed at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.

In addition, three policemen were killed today and 28 suffered gunshot wounds, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP.

There was no way to immediately verify any of the death tolls. Earlier in the day, an Associated Press reporter saw the bodies of 21 protesters laid out near Kiev's protest camp.

Saying the US was outraged by the violence, President Barack Obama issued a statement urging Yanukovych to withdraw his forces from downtown Kiev immediately. He also said Ukraine should respect the right of protest and that protesters must be peaceful.

A freeze on assets and travel bans could hurt the oligarchs who back Yanukovych.

Although the first weeks of the protests were determinedly peaceful, radical elements have become more influential as impatience with the lack of progress grows.

In their battles today, those hard-hatted protesters with makeshift weapons regained some of the territory on the Maidan's fringes that police had seized earlier in the week.
One camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, told the AP that protesters threw firebombs at riot police on the square overnight.

As the sun rose, police pulled back, protesters followed them and police then began shooting at them, he said. The Interior Ministry warned Kiev residents to stay indoors today because of the "armed and aggressive mood of the people."

Yanukovych claimed today that police were not armed and "all measures to stop bloodshed and confrontation are being taken."

But the Interior Ministry later contradicted that, saying law enforcers were armed as part of an "anti-terrorist" operation.

Some signs emerged that Yanukovych is losing loyalists. The chief of Kiev's city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced today he was leaving Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

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