President of Ukraine Declares Truce Amid Still More Fighting, Bloodshed

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KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 19: Police form a barrier in Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. After several weeks of calm, violence has again flared between anti-government protesters and police as the Ukrainian parliament is meant to take up the question of whether to revert to the country's 2004 constitution. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Photo: Brendan Hoffman/2014 Getty Images

The “fiery war zone” of Kiev’s Independence Square raged again on Wednesday, as it has with varying degrees of intensity for weeks, as threats of U.S. and E.U. sanctions may have finally moved things toward a resolution. Pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych announced this afternoon that after meeting with opposition leaders, the parties declared a “truce,” as well as the “beginning of negotiations aimed at cessation of bloodshed and stabilization of the situation in the country for the sake of civil peace.”

We have been watching very carefully and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters,” said President Obama earlier, following the death of at least 25 people, including nine police officers yesterday. “There will be consequences if people step over the line.” (A good explainer of the protest’s origins and key players can be found here.)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added that violence “by any side is totally unacceptable,” but urged authorities to “desist from the use of excessive force.”

The stunning visuals of almost-medieval clashes between demonstrators and riot police today, however, indicate an uphill battle toward peace:

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Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
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Photo: Brendan Hoffman/2014 Getty Images
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Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
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Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
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Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/2014 AFP
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Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
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Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/2014 AFP
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Photo: Brendan Hoffman/2014 Getty Images
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Photo: AFP/2014 AFP