Kiev, Feb. 18 Mayhem gripped the centre of the Ukrainian capital today as riot police officers broke through barricades protecting a protest encampment and, pelted with rocks and fireworks, massed on the edge of Independence Square.
There were unconfirmed reports that at least three protesters had been killed, and the interior ministry said one police officer had died. Enraged protesters reoccupied Kiev’s City Hall, which they had vacated two days earlier, and the authorities shut the Kiev subway to thwart Opposition calls for reinforcements to come defend their encampment.
The violence began early today when anti-government activists moved out of their barricaded zone around Independence Square and advanced into a government-controlled district, battling riot police officers with stones and Molotov cocktails in the worst clashes in nearly a month. A group of young militants occupied and set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Party of Regions.
“We have no other way,” said Lena Melniko, a 33-year-old accountant who joined a team of protesters digging up paving stones and passing them on to helmeted fighters to throw at police.