|Ukraine police attack Kiev square again, protesters dig in behind wall of flames
Anti-riot police launched another assault on Kiev's Independence Square today after firing tear gas on protesters defending their camp, an AFP journalist said.
The police, who have been engaged in a bloody hours-long standoff with the protesters, took up position around a monument in the center of the square shortly after 4:00am local time.
On Tuesday, amid cries of “Glory to Ukraine!'' and with flaming tires lighting up the night sky, thousands of riot police armed with stun grenades and water cannons attacked the sprawling protest camp, following a day of street battles that left 18 people dead and hundreds injured.
The violence was the deadliest in nearly three months of anti-government protests and the worst in the country's post-Soviet history
Amid exploding stun grenades and fireworks, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged the 20,000 protesters to defend the camp on Independence Square.
“We will not go anywhere from here,'' Klitschko told the crowd, speaking from a stage in the square as tents and tires burned around him. “This is an island of freedom and we will defend it,'' he said.
Many heeded his call.
“This looks like a war against one's own people,'' said Dmytro Shulko, 35, who was heading toward the camp armed with a fire bomb. “But we will defend ourselves.''
As police dismantled some of the barricades on the perimeter of the square and tried to push away the protesters, they fought back with rocks, bats and fire bombs. Against the backdrop of a soaring monument to Ukraine's independence, protesters fed the burning flames with tires, creating walls of fire to prevent police from advancing. A large building the protesters had used as a headquarters caught fire and many struggled to get out. Many of the protesters were bleeding.
Speaking over loudspeakers, police urged women and children to leave the square because an “anti-terrorist'' operation was underway.—AFP/AP