Unrest in Kiev turned for the worse Wednesday with news that at least four people were killed in clashes between police and protesters, the first fatalities since demonstrations over the government's rejection of a planned EU treaty began in November.
The day saw state police units dismantle a makeshift barricade on Europe Square and Hrushevskoho Street, the city’s new hotspot for clashes, which runs along the cabinet office and parliament buildings. Protesters, who fashioned makeshift armor out of sleeping mats and pieces of wood strapped to their jackets, parried police grenades with Molotov cocktails. While many of their missiles failed to hit their targets, the protesters stood their ground.
"If we leave now, we will all land in jail. We will take a stand," Bogdan, a young man guarding a barricade, told Metro.
To maintain their position, the protesters ignited huge bonfires, the smoke of which, they claim, neutralizes the flumes of noxious pepper gas launched by the police.
When news circulated earlier in the day of the first casualties in the civil unrest, the crowds swelled to an estimated 2,000 by mid-morning.
"Burn for our boys!" a voice is heard yelling from inside the crowd as a petrol bomb lands and scatters on top of a phalanx of riot police. Some of the bombs lobbed were five-liter pickled cucumber jars.
At one moment, an Orthodox priest walked out into the neutral zone between the protesters and police, pleading for calm. However, the riot-control units were in no mood for suing for peace: lined up like a shielded formation of Roman legionaries, the police advanced towards the protesters, waving their batons and firing rubber bullets. People finally began to disperse and fled back to their camp at the nearby Maidan Square.
Hrushevskoho Street was emptied after ten minutes – a result for the police. And while the air clears at Kiev’s freshest battleground, thick black smoke still shrouds over the city squares elsewhere.
Metro photographer injured by grenade in Kiev protests
A Metro journalist was injured yesterday in a stun grenade explosion on Kiev's Europe Square amid clashes between anti-government protesters and police.
Andrey Svitailo, a staff photographer for the Metro Moscow newspaper, sustained leg injuries caused by shrapnel exploding from a stun grenade thrown by Berkut riot police at protesters.
"It was very sore and painful," Svitailo describes the moment after three pieces of shrapnel struck his calf and thigh. "My jeans ripped open and I was left with some bloody bruises. I literally had to take the shards of grenade out of my clothes.
"But thanks to my long johns, the fragments did not pierce my skin," he added.
Svitailo did not require hospitalization and is continuing to cover the protests.