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PHOTOS: Ukrainian Protests Show No Signs Of Slowing

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"PHOTOS: Ukrainian Protests Show No Signs Of Slowing"

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APTOPIX Ukraine Protest

CREDIT: AP Photo/Sergei Grits

December’s pro-European Union protests on Ukraine’s streets have roared back to life in recent days, with no sign that the clashes between demonstrators and police in Kyiv will come to a satisfactory conclusion in the near future.

The demonstrations held on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv began in November as a show of opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych seeming to turn his back on the European Union, forgoing a series of treaties that would have opened Ukraine to E.U. markets and adopted more than three hundred E.U. laws as their own. The so-called EuroMaidan protests swelled to more than 350,000 Ukrainians gathered in the streets, despite — or perhaps because of — the brutal crackdown ordered to suppress the movement. After a few weeks and the intervention of Russia in the form of a $15 billion bailout, however, the protests appeared to be dying down.

That changed with the hasty passage last Thursday of a slew of laws designed to further quiet dissent and curtail the freedom of assembly. It appears that legislation was the spark needed to reignite the Maidan, with protestors calling for Yanukovych to hold early elections. “These laws were a police club to hold over protesters and neutralize them. All they did was pour oil on the flames, make the situation sharper and radicalize the protests. These laws were the biggest mistake of Yanukovich this year,” Volodymyr Fesenko of the Penta think-tank told Reuters.

Since Sunday, however, the protests have turned deadly — at least three demonstrators have been killed in clashes with the police since then and hundreds more injured, civilian and journalist alike. More worrying is the uptick in force being used on both sides of the line dividing government from citizen. Makeshift slingshots launched Molotov cocktails against policemen’s shields and government orders overturned previous bans preventing the use of water cannons in Kyiv’s freezing temperatures on Thursday as tires burned on the streets. Groups of protesters routinely assault and arrest those who they believe are members of “titushki,” unofficial gangs of pro-government civilians, placing them before civilian trials. At least one protester has accused the police of torturing him after his arrest.

The United States on Wednesday issued a statement condemning the violence that led to the protesters’ deaths, while focusing the blame for the renewed protests on the Yanukovych government. “Increased tensions in Ukraine are a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government’s failure to engage in real dialogue and the passage of anti-democratic legislation on January 16,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Harf also criticized the “aggressive actions” of far-right wing members of the protests, saying they are “not acceptable and are inflaming conditions on the streets and undermining the efforts of peaceful protestors.”

With no sign of the protests being able to topple Yanukovych, nor that he can completely regain control of the capital city, it appears that a stalemate is in place in Ukraine, one that will continue to produce these sorts of images:

Ukraine Protest

A police officer aims his shotgun

CREDIT: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

A protester using traffic sign as a shield

A protester using traffic sign as a shield

CREDIT: AP Photo/Sergei Grits

APTOPIX Ukraine Protest

A protester preparing to launch a Molotov cocktail from a makeshift slingshot

CREDIT: AP Photo/Sergei Grits

Ukraine Protest

Demonstrators use tables as shields against water cannons

CREDIT: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

APTOPIX Ukraine Protests

A protester launches fireworks at police lines

CREDIT: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Ukraine Protests

Police officers use their riot shields in testudo formation

CREDIT: AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

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