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A new wave of riots started in Kiev on the morning of February 18 after opposition supporters tried to march to the building of Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, in support of a constitutional reform cutting presidential powers. At least 28 people, including policemen, were reported killed and hundreds wounded in fierce clashes between anti-government protesters and law enforcers.
Protesters were setting car tires on fire near the Oktyabrsky Palace in downtown of Kiev and, according to eye-witnesses from the scene, some of them were also shooting from assault rifles, while officers of the Berkut special task police unit were trying to force them toward the European Square.
According to a statement published on the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s website, a sniper is in the action among the protesters. “Over 20 policemen are reported wounded as of now,” the statement said.
By setting car tires on fire the protesters are putting up a smokescreen. They hurl flaming Molotov cocktails and chunks of concrete at law enforcers, who in turn use stun grenades and rubber bullets against them.
The Independence Square is completely occupied with protesters, who keep arriving there constantly. Cars with food and medicine for them also keep coming, but each vehicle is thoroughly checked by protesters before allowed to enter the square.
Traffic police set up checkpoints on all streets leading to the center of violent protests.
According to media reports, protesters returned to the Grushevsky Street and are setting up barricades there. They also seized the Oktyabrsky Palace and reinforcing barricades on Maidan (downtown Kiev square, the symbol of Ukrainian protests).
Announcers from the improvised stage set up on Maidan call for medical assistance to be rendered for people at the Institutskaya Street near the Oktyabrsky Palace and the European Square.
Local television earlier reported that radical protesters attacked officers of the Berkut unit on the European Square and captured several of them.