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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ukraine bloodshed: Kiev death toll jumps to 67


At least 67 people have been killed in violent riots in Kiev, the Ukrainian Health Department has stated. Doctors working on Kiev’s Independence Square, however, claim that as many as 70 people were killed on the rioters’ side alone on Thursday.

The death toll in the most violent wave of clashes between the rioters and the police in Kiev is likely to increase, as there are conflicting figures coming from the Health Department, city officials and the opposition.

As many as 550 people have been injured, according to official estimates.

The surge in the number of victims comes as both armed rioters and the police are now using live ammunition in clashes. Many of the protesters and police officers killed or injured since Tuesday sustained gunshot wounds. Police have officially been allowed to use firearms in accordance with the law by an order of the Ukrainian Interior Minister.

Violence escalated on Tuesday after a group of radicals taking part in a “peaceful march” of the opposition attempted to storm the building of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada). They were repelled by police cordons. The move came despite the agreement on amnesty finally reached between the government and the opposition.

The rioters then stormed and looted the nearby unprotected office of the ruling Party of Regions, also setting it on fire. One office worker was later found dead in the devastated building, with reports saying he died from smoke inhalation.
The clashes soon grew bloody, with footage showing masked rioters firing rifles and pistols at the police in central Kiev and reports describing dead protesters with gunshot wounds.

As the situation increasingly spiraled out of control, both the Ukrainian government and the opposition blamed each other. While the government demanded that the riots stop and the armed protesters lay down their weapons, speakers on Independence Square (Maidan) demanded that police leave central Kiev. Despite the truce agreed between President Viktor Yanukovich and the leaders of the opposition, the violence continued as armed rioters did not heed the words coming from Maidan.

Meanwhile, the US, the EU and NATO lay full responsibility on the Ukrainian government, threatening it with “consequences” and sanctions. Individual sanctions for 20 Ukrainian politicians have already been imposed by Washington. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the actions of the Western states “resemble blackmail,” and he urged condemnation of the actions of “radicals and extremists, who are mostly responsible for violence and bloody riots.”

The so-called Maidan leaders must “immediately stop bloodshed” and “continue seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis without threats or ultimatums,” Lavrov stressed. The Foreign Ministry also reminded in a statement that any sanctions other than those imposed by the UN Security Council are “absolutely illegitimate.”

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