Riot police are currently advancing on the protesters camped out in Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) in Kyiv, the latest development in the violent struggle between government and demonstrators in Ukraine that has so far left nearly a dozen dead.
The protests have been ongoing since early November when Ukrainian 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. They came roaring back, however, after the passage of a series of draconian laws curtailing freedom to assemble and quash dissent.
Demonstrators had earlier this week abandoned their posts in Kyiv’s City Hall — which they had occupied for nearly three months — as part of the deal struck with the government to provide amnesty to those who had taken part in the protests and the revocation of the anti-protest laws. Days later, however, the scene stands as it is currently unfolding, with riot police numbering in the hundreds advancing on the square with water cannons blasting at the barricades. In response, demonstrators continue to launch Molotov cocktails at the police formations and shine bright lasers at the guardsmen’s faces in an attempt to blind them as the Ukrainian national anthem waves. The Ukranian government earlier on Tuesday confirmed that at least seven protesters and two police officers have died in Tuesday’s fighting.
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The State Department on Tuesday issued an emergency message to all American citizens in Ukraine, warning them that the situation is “unpredictable and can change quickly.” All citizens, the message reads, are advised to maintain a low profile and remain indoors. “U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all protests, demonstrations, and large gatherings and to remain inside in the evening,” it says. “U.S. citizens whose residences or hotels are located in the vicinity of the protests are cautioned to leave those areas or prepare to remain indoors, possibly for several days, should clashes occur.”
At midnight in Kyiv, a line of fire separates the protesters from the police, with demonstrators adding items constantly to keep the wall of flame burning — pausing only to pray the Hail Mary. Leaders of the opposition are in meetings with Yanukovych to possible find a solution to the crisis but it does not look likely overnight. Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Interior says six police have died of gunshot wounds during the protests, though it is not clear if this includes the two listed earlier. This would bring the death toll for the day to either 13 or 15 depending on if the tally overlaps with earlier reports.