Ukraine Prepares for More Violence After Bloodiest Clash in Decades

Protesters clash with the police in Independence Square early on February 19. Photo: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

After months of protests, Ukraine saw its bloodiest day since Soviet rule on Tuesday. The health ministry said 25 people were killed in Kiev, including nine police officers and a journalist, and more than 240 people were hospitalized. Reuters reports that police gained ground overnight and are now occupying about a third of Kiev’s Independence Square. Early on Wednesday, President Viktor Yanukovych issued a statement accusing opposition leaders of resorting to “pogroms, arson and murder to try to seize power.” He also issued a veiled threat to protesters, saying, “Speaking frankly, I have advisers who are trying to turn me towards harsh options, to the use of force. But I have always considered the use of force a mistake.” 

Nevertheless, protesters were returning to the square this morning, and said they’re prepared to keep fighting. “They can come in their thousands but we will not give in,” said a 44-year-old protester named Volodymyr. “We simply don’t have anywhere to go. We will stay until victory and will hold the Maidan until the end.”

Ukraine Sees Worst Clash in Years, Expects More