A crowd chanting “Murderers!” and “Glory to Ukraine” briefly retreated this morning after a police assault on their positions left two men dead from gunshot wounds. A third victim, also a protester, reportedly died from injuries in a fall.
While the general prosecutor confirmed the gunshot deaths, Kyiv police denied that officers fired on the protesters and the prosecutor said the circumstances of the deaths are under investigation.
The demonstrators quickly regrouped and renewed parts of barricades torn down by officers and returned to their original standoff point on Hrushevskoho Street after getting pushed back to European Square, some 500 meters away.
When news of the police advance circulated this morning, people started rushing to the scene. The crowd numbered an estimated 2,000 people by 10:30 a.m. after having dwindled considerably overnight before the police attack.
Many in the crowd started talking face-to-face with Interior Ministry troops trying to persuade the police officers to join them. They shouted “Come to our side!” to the police officers. However, Berkut riot-control police were having none of the peace overtures, and banged their shields in contempt. Officers with megaphones warned the crowd that they were breaking the law and that police had the legal right to disperse them.
Others in the crowd defiantly lobbed Molotov cocktails and fireworks at officers.
The gunshots killing two EuroMaidan protesters, both men, were fired overnight, according to Oleg Musiy, the coordinator of medical services for the demonstrations. Later this morning, the general prosecutor confirmed the gunshot deaths.
Meanwhile, a third death — also of a man, reportedly from injuries in a fall — has been confirmed but with few details.
Musiy confirmed both gunshot victims and said it’s not possible that the fatal injuries occurred from rubber bullets police had been using to fire on demonstrators. “It is impossible,” Musiy said, meaning that the bullets used were conventional. One died from a gunshot wound to the heart; the other from multiple gunshot wounds, Musiy said.
Both victims were said to be men in their 20s or 30s who joined the protest camp. Their names had not been officially released this morning.
The deaths are the first confirmed since EuroMaidan confrontations started two months ago and come on a holiday called Unity Day, meant to celebrate the nation’s first declaration of independence in 1919, uniting east and west Ukraine.
Meanwhile, shortly after the police push, more protesters returned to the square by Kyiv’s Dynamo Stadium, the scene of violence since Jan. 19, which besides the three deaths, has also injured more than 100 police and protesters have reportedly been hurt in clashes.
Today, the draconian laws approved by pro-presidential majority on Jan.16, came into effect. The law paves way for a massive government crackdown on protesters, activists and journalists.
On Hrushevsky Street, police are repeatedly blasting a message from loudspeaker to back off and stop mass disorders, warning that it’s a “grave violation of law.”
“The department of interior affairs demands that you stop these actions,” the message says.
Around 8 a.m. the police ripped apart protesters’ barricades on Hrushevskoho Street in an effort to end the standoff. Earlier, they had destroyed a catapult constructed to fire rocks and other objects at their ranks. Throughout the night, police heavily fortified their positions and protesters expected a strike.