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Ukraine Protesters, Police In Tense Standoff After Deadly Clashes

  • RFE/RL

Antigovernment protesters are in a tense standoff with riot police on Kyiv's Independence Square after a day of deadly clashes.

Authorities said at least 25 people, including nine policemen, died in the February 18 violence, and hundreds on both sides were wounded.

The Interior Ministry said a 10th policeman had died of his wounds. A Ukrainian journalist was also among those killed.

LIVE BLOG: Photos And Videos Of The Clashes

Both police and opposition representatives said many died of gunshot wounds.

The clashes subsided on February 19 after security forces temporarily halted their overnight assault to regain control of Independence Square, the focus of the three-months-long antigovernment protests. Thousands of protesters faced off lines of riot police after a night that saw petrol bombs, stun grenades, and gunfire.

The government said the clashes were an attempt to seize power by force.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Acting Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzon said "this was neither a demonstration of democracy nor a political action."

"It is the manipulation of people's minds and an attempt to seize power by force. Such methods have never led to conflict resolution in any country. They can only lead to disaster," Arbuzon said.

In a televised address to the nation late on February 18, Yanukovych said some members of the opposition had crossed a line when they allegedly urged supporters to bring weapons to the demonstration in Independence Square.

The president said "criminals" would face justice in court, but insisted that it was "not too late to end the conflict."

Opposition leaders blamed President Viktor Yanukovych for failing to end the violence.

After late night talks between opposition leaders and Yanukovych failed to produce a breakthrough, Vitali Klitschko urged protesters to remain on Independence Square, calling it an "island of freedom."

The antigovernment protests were triggered by Yanukovych's decision in late November to pull away from a landmark agreement with the European Union in exchange for a $15 billion bailout from Russia.

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With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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