Ukraine protests: 3 die in first deaths of two months of unrest.

"If It's a Bullet in the Forehead, Then It's a Bullet in the Forehead"

"If It's a Bullet in the Forehead, Then It's a Bullet in the Forehead"

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Jan. 22 2014 2:41 PM

"If It's a Bullet in the Forehead, Then It's a Bullet in the Forehead"

Riot police officers gather as they clash with protestors in the center of Kiev on January 22, 2014.

Photo by Anatoli Boiko/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine's anti-government protests—which began this past November and have included brutal clashes between police and demonstrators—have been anything but pretty. But today, for the first time, they turned deadly. Here's the New York Times with a rough sketch of what we know about the overnight deaths:

The circumstances of the two shooting deaths remained murky, with protesters saying the men had been killed by the police. The authorities confirmed that two young men had died of gunshot wounds, and said the deaths were under investigation. The local news media reported that a third man died after apparently falling from an archway that protesters had climbed to hurl stones and Molotov cocktails at the police.

The news threatened to mark a new and even more violent stage in the already tense clashes between the protesters and government forces—although as of this evening it appears as though cooler heads were prevailing somewhat, at least temporarily anyway. The Associated Press reports that leaders from three factions of the opposition met with President Viktor Yaanukovych for several hours this evening, after which they called for demonstrators to refrain from clashing with police for the next 24 hours.

The good news: those talks were, in the words of Reuters, the "first concrete move toward negotiating an end" to the unrest. (They also represented at least a minor victory for the opposition leaders, who had been seeking the president's direct participation in talks.) The bad news: if the 24-hour window closes without significant progress toward an unlikely resolution, exactly what happens next is anyone's guess—although opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk painted a rather dark picture while speaking to tens of thousands of demonstrators this evening. "Tomorrow we will go forward together," he said the crowd. "And if it's a bullet in the forehead, then it's a bullet in the forehead, but in an honest, fair and brave way."

For those who've only been keeping one eye on Ukraine, the AP has a basic timeline of events here. The protests began late last year when the government announced that it was abandoning an agreement that would strengthen the country's ties with the European Union, and instead seek a closer relationship with Moscow—a rather unpopular idea in the eyes of many Ukrainians, particularly those in the western part of the eastern European nation.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.