Kiev Burns as Chaos Breaks Out in Ukrainian Capital

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 18 2014 3:07 PM

Kiev Burns as Chaos Breaks Out in Ukrainian Capital

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Police clash with anti-government protesters in Kiev on February 18, 2014.

Photo by ANATOLII BOIKO/AFP/Getty Images

With at least reported nine fatalities (two policemen and seven civilians), today already marks the worst day of violence in Ukraine since the demonstrations against Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych erupted back in November. Reuters has more on today's bloody protests here, but what I want to flag is the stunning video currently being broadcast from Kiev, parts of which are now ablaze after a bloody day of fighting between police and protesters.

Here's the New York Times with a bit more of context about what went down earlier today, leading to the images you see above:

As the attack began just before 8 p.m. local time, the police tried to drive two armored personnel carriers through stone-reinforced barriers outside the Khreschatyk Hotel in the square. But they became bogged down and, set upon by protesters wielding rocks and fireworks, burst into flames, apparently trapping the security officers inside and prompting desperate rescue efforts from their colleagues. ...
The push into Independence Square by anti-riot forces spread chaos and fire across the protest zone, with tents ablaze as police advanced through clouds of smoke and tear-gas. Protesters sang the national anthem against the din of percussion grenades, fireworks and what, on occasion, sounded like gunfire. A phalanx of riot police officers, backed by a water cannon, pushed through protesters’ barricades near the Ukraina Hotel and fired tear gas as they advanced toward the center of the square. People covered in blood staggered to a medical center set up in the protest encampment.
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For those who need a refresher: The protests began about 12 weeks ago when the government announced that it was abandoning an agreement that would have strengthen the country's ties with the European Union, and instead decided to 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. The demonstrations since have been marked by repeated clashes between pro-government police and the growing number of protesters calling for Yanukovych to step down. But while the protests were never pretty, they didn't turn deadly for the first time until late last month.

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