Thousands of Ukrainian police stormed an anti-government protest camp in Kiev early Wednesday morning setting off another round of skirmishes. Police dismantled barricades in the city’s Independence Square as protestors shouted “Shame!” and “We will stand!”
The chaotic scene came on the heels of Western diplomats arriving in the city for meetings with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the New York Times reports, “in an effort to defuse both the country’s slide into a political chaos as well as a deepening financial crisis.”
Here’s more from the streets of Kiev from the Times:
As the security forces spread throughout the square, a large crowd of protesters brandishing sticks, clubs, metal rods and anything else they could find massed in front of the Trade Unions Building, which leaders of the demonstration had turned into the headquarters of what they call the National Resistance. Fistfights and shoving matches broke out on streets that the demonstrators had slicked with water that swiftly turned to ice… Protesters in construction hats, bicycle helmets and other protective gear then rushed toward the police, with blows being landed by both sides. The police also began deploying canisters of tear gas, creating plumes of smoke around the swirling crowds.
The protests began last month when President Yanukovych withdrew from a free-trade deal with the European Union that would have deepened the country’s ties with the bloc, tilting the former-Soviet republic towards Western Europe and away from Russia. According to the Associated Press, “Moscow has worked aggressively to derail the deal with the EU and lure Kiev into its own economic group by offering price discounts and loans as well as imposing painful trade restrictions.”
There was no apparent reason for the police advance on the square, according to the Times.