Ukranian riot police clashed with protesters occupying a square in central Kiev Wednesday morning, following hours of street battles that left at least 25 people dead and hundreds injured, as the United States and other Western governments called for an end to violence in the country.
Police armed with water cannons were gaining ground in Independence Square, but protestors managed to find protection behind a burning barricade of tires and wood and hurled Molotov cocktails at security forces trying to put out the flames, Reuters reported.
At least 25 people, including several police officers and protesters, were reported dead in the violence by Wednesday morning, with hundreds more injured, the Associated Press reported.
Thousands of protesters had filled Independence Square just hours before, sensing that Ukraine’s political standoff was reaching a critical turning point after the deadliest violence yet in nearly three months of protests that have paralyzed the capital and the nation.
Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged the protesters to defend the camp.
“We will not go anywhere from here,” Klitschko told the crowd, speaking from a stage in the square as fires burned around him, releasing huge plumes of smoke into the night sky. “This is an island of freedom and we will defend it,” he said.