The situation in Kiev continues to move from bad to worse to even worse this week. Only hours after a truce was declared between Ukrainian government forces and opposition protesters, both sides were again engaged in a bloody standoff this morning in the streets around Kiev's Independence Square, which has served as the main stage for the conflict, seemingly moving the months-long conflict one giant step closer to civil war as the world looks on.
As the Washington Post ominously reported this morning, the two sides "traded molotov cocktails, and gunshots could be heard." Graphic images circulating online and across the news wires confirm that description, including photos of protesters on fire and of police appearing to shoot live-rounds into the demonstration.
Given the ongoing nature of the conflict, it's unclear exactly how many people have died in the latest round of clashes, but Reuters estimates that the number could be as high as 50 people. [UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: The Associated Press spoke with a protest medic who says the death toll is closer to 70, with another 500 wounded.] Here's the New York Times with more on how the truce ended before it ever really began:
Just after dawn, young men in ski masks opened a breach in their barricade near a stage on the square, ran across a hundred yards of smoldering debris and surged toward riot police officers who were firing at them with shotguns. Protesters pushed back the police amid a continual racket of gunshots and by around 10 a.m. had recaptured the entire square, but at the cost of creating a scene of mayhem. The fighting left bodies lined up on a sidewalk, makeshift clinics crammed with the bloody wounded, and sirens and gunfire ringing through the center of the city. ...
Anatoly Volk, 38, one of the demonstrators, said ... the protesters had decided to try to retake the square because they believed the truce announced around midnight was a ruse. The young men in ski masks who led the push, he said, believed it was a stalling maneuver by President Viktor F. Yanukovych to buy time to deploy troops in the capital after the authorities decided the civilian police had insufficient forces to clear the square.
“A truce means real negotiations,” Mr. Volk said. “They are just delaying to make time to bring in more troops. They didn’t have the forces to storm us last night. So we are expanding our barricades to where they were before. We are restoring what we had.”
We'll be keeping an eye on the unfolding violence in Kiev and update throughout the day. At the moment, it appears almost certain that it will get worse—potentially much worse—before it gets better. Or, as Volk summed things up to the Times: "There will be many dead today."