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Counterterrorism operation starts in downtown Kiev

February 18, 2014, 22:53 UTC+3 KIEV

Protesters called on women and children to leave the scene

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KIEV, February 18. /ITAR-TASS/.Ukrainian law enforcement officers are conducting a counterterrorism operation on downtown Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan).

A few vehicles with water cannons approached protesters, and law enforcers used the cannons to oust demonstrators from adjacent streets to the center of Maidan.

Protesters are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Berkut riot police, and are trying to blind law enforcers, who use shields, with laser beams. Stun grenades are exploding from time to time.

Calls were heard from some protesters not to use force.

Speakers on the rostrum are cursing law enforcers and urging protesters not to leave Maidan.

Demonstrators set an armored personnel carrier on fire.

There are a few fires on Maidan.

Protesters earlier called on women and children to leave the scene immediately.

Batkivshchina opposition party leader Arseny Yatsenyuk has asked Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich for truce until morning.

Ukrainian news agency Unian reported citing the Interior Ministry that 8 people had been killed in clashes.

The Canadian embassy was attacked, a senior Ukrainian Interior Ministry investigator told Itar-Tass.

Seventy-one riot participants turned to Kiev medical institutions for help today, with 59 hospitalized.

Earlier a ruling Party of Regions member, presidential adviser Anna German, said the president would only meet with the opposition if clashes ended.

“The talks will be held only when confrontation methods stop, when the opposition removes armed people from the streets and when calm is restored in the country,” Unian quoted her as saying.

President Yanukovich’s representative in parliament, Yury Miroshnichenko, said a state of emergency would not be introduced in the country.

Ukraine has been hit by anti-government protests that at times turned into riots since the authorities refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union at a Vilnius summit in November 2013, choosing closer ties with Russia instead.

The Ukrainian authorities adopted tougher laws for public order violations in mid-January, which triggered another wave of protests, with three protesters believed to have been killed, and up to 200 police injured. The laws were later repealed.

Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov resigned on January 28, and the Ukrainian leadership also decided to pardon participants of riots on the condition protesters vacated state and local power institutions they seized within 15 days. The initial reaction of opposition leaders to the amnesty law that entered into force February 2 was defiant and skeptical.

A new wave of riots occurred in Kiev on Tuesday, and Svoboda opposition party leader Oleg Tyagnibok said it was caused by failure to agree on a constitutional reform cutting presidential powers.

Meanwhile, Kiev’s police reported Tuesday that the building of the city state administration had been seized again by protesters who threw Molotov cocktails. Earlier, protesters held the building for over 2.5 months, but vacated it on February 16 to observe the amnesty law adopted by the authorities.

Protesters had time until February 17 to vacate seized state and local power institutions, unblock Grushevskogo Street in downtown Kiev and other streets and squares across the country except those where peaceful protest rallies were being held.

The head of the Kiev city state administration, Vladimir Makeyenko, urged people to “abstain from visiting the city center” due to protests in an emergency television address to Kiev residents. He also called on politicians to avoid confrontation.

Motor traffic on roads in Kiev has been restricted.

The US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Payatt, warned the Ukrainian conflicting sides that those who use violence may face US sanctions. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier did not rule out sanctions either, saying Europe could “review its previous restraint.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the Ukrainian conflicting sides to stop violence and resume dialogue aimed at working out a solution to the crisis as soon as possible.



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