The Ukrainian government has issued an ultimatum to protesters to clear Kyiv’s Independence Square or face police action. The announcement came amid an escalation in tensions and reports of fatalities.
A statement on the website of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry on Tuesday afternoon warned demonstrators to halt protest action by 1800 (1600 UTC).
If protesters refused to clear out from occupied sites, “we will be forced to restore order with all legal means,” the Interior Ministry said.
The ultimatum was issued as police moved through the capital city’s Independence Square – known as Maidan – following a mass march of some 20,000 people on the parliament building earlier in the day. Security forces reportedly had begun pushing through barricades to begin clearing out dissidents.
There were also reports of fatalities on Tuesday. A parliamentarian cited by news agency Reuters said the bodies of three protesters had been brought away from the crowd into a government building. The deceased had apparently sustained gunshot wounds.
Kyiv’s subway system had been temporarily shutdown in the wake of the violence, according to news agency DPA.
Plumes of smoke rose over central Kyiv on Tuesday as tensions escalated between anti-government demonstrators and security forces. Police began firing tear gas at masses of people marching from Maidan to the parliament building after some protesters began throwing rocks at the security forces. They also set several police vans on fire. Dozens were injured in the clashes.
Government opponents have been calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych since November, when he shelved an association act with the EU in favor of a multi-billion-euro loan from Moscow. The move sparked mass protests, primarily in the capital city.
On Monday, Ukrainian opposition leaders Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin. Although Merkel said she sympathized with the will of the Ukrainian people and would provide support for a positive outcome to end the political crisis, she said she would not support sanctions against the Ukrainian government.
kms/ph (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)