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Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday's pitched battle

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Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday's pitched battle


Ukraine’s capital erupted back into violence on Tuesday morning. This article is one of a series written with the onset of night.

The eruption came as the authorities gave protesters in Kyiv public buildings and spaces a deadline to quit those premises.

The government warned that, as of the evening, remaining occupants would not be treated as peaceful civilians.

A key opposition leader asked that all women and children leave Maidan central square.

In the latest confrontation, several thousand anti-government protesters clashed with police near the parliament.

Opposition street fighters threw paving stones and petrol bombs.

The police fired stun and smoke grenades and rubber bullets.

The escalation amplified pressure on the president, Viktor Yanukovich, to strike a deal with the opposition to return Ukraine to a parliamentary republic rather than today’s presidential republic.

Central Kyiv calmed down later in the day. It was in an uproar in the early hours.

Most of the hardline protesters would be chased out of the area, and riot police would impose their way in Maidan (Independence Square).

The protesters had marched to the parliament building to press Yanukovich to give up what they call his “dictatorial” control of the economy and the security forces. Along the way, they were blocked by a line of trucks and the riot squads with interlocked shields.

A nearby office of Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions was ransacked.

Heavy police action against initially peaceful demonstrations at the end of November would see groups of otherwise ordinary Ukrainians respond with their own force – though not at the same level seen when the government unleashed units whose members are especially trained to fight major organised crime.

These massive specimens of law enforcement were launched against even non-violent opponents in the streets, swinging boots and batons into them even after they had fallen.

Many Ukrainians say they do not approve of the actions taken by extremists in Euro-Maidan, yet the protesters vowed they won’t give up till Yanukovich makes real concessions.

The European Union’s expression of deepening ‘concern’ evolved towards making noises about sanctions in reaction to the violence.

With Russia, on the other hand, traditional ally of at least a part of Ukraine, there was no mincing words; Moscow accuses western capitals of encouraging the opposition.

Russia is loathe to give up influence, and when Kiev walked away from a strategic deal (which it had long-favoured) on closer links with mainstream Europe, Moscow promised it a multi-billion-euro financial and economic aid package.

Even so, cautious heads in the Kremlin slowed down on handing that over.

Kiev’s currency seems to lose more credibility – in some eyes – with every blow struck.

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