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Catapults And Forced Strips: How Ukrainian Police, Protesters Are Doing Battle

A standoff between riot police and protesters has persisted in downtown Kyiv since January 19, and the scene has sometimes turned violent. At least two protesters have died from gunshot wounds and over 100 riot policemen have been injured, according to the Interior Ministry.

While thousands have been gathering peacefully on a nightly basis in Independence Square -- the sight of a pro-European encampment that is now two months old -- more radical protesters have taken up positions on Hrushevskyy street, 1,500 meters away.

Below, RFE/RL provides a list of the more aggressive tactics coming from both sides.


Mysterious Bullets

When the violence started following mass protests on January 19, police could be seen firing what appeared to be rubber bullets. But by early morning on January 22, at least two protesters had been shot dead, and some were accusing police of using far more powerful rounds. Christopher MIller, an editor at the "Kyiv Post" said he saw a protester get hit with the bullet pictured below. The bullet was seen in other photos appearing on social media on January 22 and is said to resemble ammunition used for hunting. Slow motion video of police firing.

A Russian reporter apparently being shot during a live standup.

A Naked Man And Weather As A Weapon

On January 23 a video appeared online (Warning, some may find this video, which includes nudity, offensive) showing Ukraine's riot police forcing a man to stand on the street completely naked -- save for his shoes -- as they posed for pictures. The man, who has bruises all over his body, appears to be kicked in the groin area before he is pushed into the police paddy-wagon. Ukraine's Interior Ministry apologized for the incident in a statement. Mimicking Sexual Acts

Several videos have been posted online of Ukraine's riot police making offensive gestures at protesters. This video, shot by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on January 22, shows a riot police officer approaching protesters, who are throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks, and then appearing to mimic masturbation. The police officer picks up a rock and throws it back in the direction of demonstrators. (Warning, some may find this content offensive.)

The Traditional Methods -- Water Cannons and Truncheons

The "Euromaidan" protest movement expanded in late November after police were seen flailing violently at peaceful protesters at a demonstration in favor of Euro-integration at Independence Square (Maidan). Since then, riot police had largely kept their truncheons at their sides, until violence broke out again this week. On January 22, the Ukrainian government also approved the use of water cannon to fend off protesters despite nighttime temperatures reaching below -10 degrees Celsius. Riot police have said they are using the water cannon only to put out fires lit by protesters.


Molotov Cocktails

Molotov cocktails are the weapon of choice for radical demonstrators. Several images have appeared online and on Ukrainian television of riot police officers on fire or in the hospital after suffering serious burns. Riot police have also been seen throwing Molotov cocktails back at protesters.


Ukrainian protesters spent January 20 building a catapult to be used in battles against riot police on Hrushevskyy street. It is not clear if the catapult ever became an effective tool for the protesters' side, however. When police moved in early on January 22, one of the first things they appeared to do was burn the catapult, which was made from wood.

Barricades Of Fire

Since January 19, a cloud of black smoke has often been seen hovering over the sky in the area around Hrushevskyy street and stretching to Independence Square. On the first night, radical protesters burnt two police buses and four other vehicles. Since then, they have mostly used large tires and piles of garbage to build a wall between themselves and the riot police.
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    Glenn Kates

    Glenn Kates is the former managing editor for digital at Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. He now reports for RFE/RL as a freelancer. 

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