President of Ukraine Declares Truce Amid Still More Fighting, Bloodshed

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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:

Anti-government protesters clash with police on Independence Square in Kiev on February 19, 2014. Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 19: Police form a line against anti-government protesters on Independence Square as the Trade Unions Building, which served as the de facto headquarters of the protest movement, burns behind them 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
KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 19: Anti-government protesters clash with police on Independence Square in Kiev on February 19, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. At least 26 people have been killed and hundreds injured as violence once again flared between police and anti-government protesters, after several weeks of calm. The anti-government protesters are calling for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych over corruption and an abandoned trade agreement with the European Union. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images) Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 19: Anti-government protesters in Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. Violent clashes erupted yesterday following renewed anti-government protests, with the death toll rising to 25. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images) Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
Protesters protect themselves with shields from police water cannon at the barricades at Independence square in Kiev on February 19, 2014. Protesters braced on February 19 for a fresh assault by riot police in central Kiev after a day of clashes left at least 25 people dead in the worst violence since the start of Ukraine's three-month political crisis. As dawn rose over Kiev's battered city centre, protesters hurled paving stones and Molotov cocktails at lines of riot police that had pushed into the heart of the devastated protest camp on Independence Square. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/2014 AFP
KIEV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 19: Anti-government test a machine which uses compressed air to throw molotov-cocktails towards police forces on Independence Square in Kiev on February 19, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. At least 26 people have been killed and hundreds injured as violence once again flared between police and anti-government protesters, after several weeks of calm. The anti-government protesters are calling for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych over corruption and an abandoned trade agreement with the European Union. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images) Photo: Alexander Koerner/2014 Alexander Koerner
A protester hurls a molotov cocktail towards police from the barricades at Independence square in Kiev on February 19, 2014. Protesters braced on February 19 for a fresh assault by riot police in central Kiev after a day of clashes left at least 25 people dead in the worst violence since the start of Ukraine's three-month political crisis. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/2014 AFP
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
A anti-government protester climbs on a barricade during clashes with riot police on Kiev's Independence square on February 19, 2014. Protesters braced on February 19 for a fresh assault by riot police in central Kiev after a day of clashes left at least 25 people dead in the worst violence since the start of Ukraine's three-month political crisis. Ukraine's security service on February 19 announced a nationwide "anti-terrorist" operation in response to deadly anti-government protests. "The National Security Service and Ukrainian Anti-Terrorist Centre have taken the decision to conduct an anti-terrorist operation across the territory of Ukraine," security agency head Oleksandr Yakimenko said in a statement. AFP PHOTO / SANDRO MADDALENA (Photo credit should read SANDRO MADDALENA/AFP/Getty Images) Photo: AFP/2014 AFP