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Kyiv Begins Marking Anniversary Of Deadly Shootings During Euromaidan Protests

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko lays flowers at the so-called Monument of the Heavenly Hundred on Kyiv's Independence Square on February 18.

KYIV -- Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko has marked the seventh anniversary of the shooting deaths of dozens of participants in the Euromaidan anti-government protests that toppled Ukraine's Russia-friendly former president, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014.

Klitschko laid flowers on February 18 at the sites where the deadly shootings occurred seven years ago and at the so-called Monument of the Heavenly Hundred on Kyiv's Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti).

"Every day of the fight -- from autumn 2013 to February 2014 -- was important. No matter how difficult it is now, we will not disown or betray the ideals and principles we fought for at Maidan," Klitschko said.

While the official day of nationwide commemorations to honor those who were killed in Kyiv during clashes with Yanukovych's security forces is February 20, some parts of Ukraine begin honoring the slain protesters two days earlier, on the day when the shootings started.

The Euromaidan movement began in November 2013 when protesters gathered on the central square in Kyiv to protest Yanukovych's decision not to sign a crucial trade accord with the European Union. Instead, he sought closer economic ties with Russia.

Ukrainian prosecutors say 104 people were killed and 2,500 injured as a result of violent crackdowns by authorities against protesters from February 18-20, 2014.

Shunning a deal backed by the West and Russia to end the standoff, Yanukovych abandoned power and fled Kyiv on February 21, 2014.

The former president, who was secretly flown to Russia and remains there, denies that he ordered police to fire on protesters, saying that the violence was the result of a “planned operation” to overthrow his government.

In March 2014, shortly after Yanukovych's downfall, Russian military forces seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula -- a precursor to the Kremlin's illegal annexation of the territory through a hastily organized and widely discredited referendum.

Russia also has supported pro-Russia separatists who are fighting Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine.

More than 13,200 people have been killed in that conflict since April 2014.