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Ukraine: huge unrest in Kyiv after two protesters die from gunshot wounds

22/01/14 10:14 CET

There have been further clashes on Wednesday between riot police and protesters in Ukraine following the death of at least two demonstrators.

Activists gathered early on Wednesday in a small area around Hrushevskyy Street in the centre of Kyiv close to government buildings and the main protest encampment at Independence Square, known as Maidan.

Police stormed protesters’ barricades on Hrushevskyy Street early on Wednesday morning. They later retreated, but by the afternoon had pushed through the barricades again.

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Protesters hurled petrol bombs and burnt rubber tyres while riot police responded with rubber bullets and stun grenades. Ambulances carried away the wounded.

Thousands of protesters also gathered nearby in Independence Square where activists continue to occupy a tent camp behind barricades.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich met with the three main opposition leaders for negotiation talks after appealing for a peaceful end to the conflict.

In a statement, Yanukovich said he was “against bloodshed and the use of force” and called on people to “return to their homes” to restore “peace, tranquility and stability” in Ukraine.

At least two people lost their lives during overnight violence in Kyiv, when police tried to push back protesters and were attacked by some activists throwing petrol bombs.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general confirmed the two had died from bullet wounds, adding that their bodies were found in the parliamentary library close to the scene of the clashes. Medics for the activists say at least one of the victims had multiple wounds and alleged he had been killed by a police sniper.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said that police did not possess firearms and the interior ministry has denied that police have used guns during the crisis.

A third protester was also reported to have died from injuries after falling from the top of the Dynamo football stadium. However a spokeswoman for Kyiv’s health department said the man had survived and was being treated in the hospital.

Azarov blamed anti-government protesters for bringing “terrorists” onto the streets and warned that their “criminal actions” would be punished. He told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning: “These are criminals who must answer for their actions.”

The European Union has threatened to take action against Ukraine over its crackdown on anti-government protests. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU was shocked by the deaths, and would have to “rethink its relationship” with Ukraine with “possible consequences.”

Meanwhile the US embassy in Kyiv said it had revoked the visas of “several Ukrainians… linked to violence” against protesters in November and December last year. It said it was also considering “further action” against those responsible for the current violence.

Russia has accused the EU and US of “outside interference” in Ukrainian affairs.

The crisis began in November when President Yanukovich decided to shun a trade pact with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Events became more violent on Sunday after the opposition called for a mass rally to protest against new legislation coming into force on Wednesday which will ban anti-government protests.

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