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Ukraine

Protests turn into fiery riots

Clashes result of demonstration ban

  • Protesters  throw  stones towards riot police, a burning police bus in from of them, during clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic’s political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

    Protesters throw stones towards riot police, a burning police bus in from of them, during clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic’s political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

  • Protesters attack riot police bus  in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations.  A group of radical activists began attacking riot police with sticks, trying to push their way toward the Ukrainian parliament building, which has been cordoned off by rows of police and buses. (AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)

    Protesters attack riot police bus in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. A group of radical activists began attacking riot police with sticks, trying to push their way toward the Ukrainian parliament building, which has been cordoned off by rows of police and buses. (AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)

  • A protester throws a burning flare during clashes with police,  in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic's political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman)

    A protester throws a burning flare during clashes with police, in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic's political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman)

  • A protester  throws  a stone towards a burning police bus in front of him, during clashes with police,  in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic?s political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman)

    A protester throws a stone towards a burning police bus in front of him, during clashes with police, in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic?s political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman)

  • Protesters  throw  stones towards riot police, a burning police bus in from of them, during clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic’s political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
  • Protesters attack riot police bus  in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations.  A group of radical activists began attacking riot police with sticks, trying to push their way toward the Ukrainian parliament building, which has been cordoned off by rows of police and buses. (AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)
  • A protester throws a burning flare during clashes with police,  in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic's political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman)
  • A protester  throws  a stone towards a burning police bus in front of him, during clashes with police,  in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. The violent scenes further escalated this ex-Soviet republic?s political crisis and showed a rift among opposition leaders, one of whom fought bravely to stop the violence, while others condemned the events from afar. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman)

Protests in Ukraine’s capital escalated into fiery street battles with the police yesterday as thousands of demonstrators hurled rocks and firebombs to set police vehicles ablaze. Dozens were injured.

The police responded with stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons, but were outnumbered by the protesters. Many of the riot police officers held their shields over their heads to protect themselves from the projectiles thrown by demonstrators on the other side of a cordon of buses.

The violence was a sharp escalation of Ukraine’s two-month political crisis, which has brought round-the-clock protest gatherings but had been largely peaceful.

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko tried to persuade demonstrators to stop their unrest but failed and was sprayed by a fire extinguisher in the process. Klitschko traveled to President Viktor Yanukovych’s residence and said the president has agreed to negotiate.

“There are only two ways for events to develop. The first one is not to negotiate,” Klitschko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “A scenario of force can be unpredictable, and I don’t rule out the possibility of a civil war. . . . And here we are using all possibilities in order to prevent bloodshed.”

Yanukovych said later on his website that he has tasked a working group, headed by national security council head Andriy Klyuev, to meet with opposition representatives to work out a solution. However, it was unclear if either side was prepared for real compromise; throughout the crisis, the opposition has insisted on the government’s resignation and calling early presidential elections.

The White House blamed the increased tensions on Ukraine’s government for failing to acknowledge its people’s legitimate grievances and threatened sanctions if the use of violence continues.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Ukraine’s government “has moved to weaken the foundations of Ukraine’s democracy by criminalizing peaceful protest and stripping civil society and political opponents of key democratic protections under the law.”

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