Several protesters and policemen have died, and scores more have been injured, as clashes between anti-government demonstrators and security forces (and roving gangs working on their behalf) escalated on Tuesday into what has become not just the worst day of the current unrest, but also the bloodiest day in the nation's post-Soviet history.
On Tuesday evening, police descended on the central protest camp in Kiev's Independence Square, promising to make the deadliest day in the two months of daily protests against President Viktor Yanukovych even bloodier.
The demonstrations began when Yanukovych ditched a deal last year with the European Union, in favor of a financial loan and closer ties to Moscow. It angered opposition groups in the country uncomfortable with Yanukovych's ties to the Russian government. Those tensions flared once again this week as Parliamentary action on a key demand of the opposition — a reduction in Yanukovych's powers as president — stalled. At the same time, Russia offered to give the Ukraine a second infusion of cash, escalating worries that Yanukovych might be preparing to form a new government with even stronger sympathies to Russia.
We're providing updates (and a livestream) on the police confrontation with protesters here. There have been multiple reports on casualties, most unconfirmed, and varying wildly. Below are some of the images emerging photos from the war-like atmosphere of today's demonstrations — and violence. WARNING: Some of the images below are somewhat graphic.
Top floors of Trade Unions bldg engulfed in flames. Reports of people trapped inside. Some climbing down to safety. pic.twitter.com/rtzlqDEYS4— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) February 18, 2014