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Death toll climbs to 60 in Kiev as 67 police officers 'seized'

The death toll from today’s earlier violence stands, unofficially, at 26.

Image: Efrem Lukatsky/AP/Press Association Images

Updated at 3.10pm

THE INTERIOR MINISTRY of Ukraine has said that 67 police officers have been ‘seized’ in Kiev.

The statement was released as the European Union meet for crisis talks about the renewed violence in the city.

Earlier this morning, armed protesters stormed police barricades in Kiev and up to 60 people were reportedly killed. The larger death toll was claimed by an opposition medic.

Police fired live ammunition “in self-defence” when protesters threatened them, said the interior ministry, which also accused “radical extremists” of seizing 67 officers.

The clashes shattered an hours-old truce as EU envoys held crisis talks with Ukraine’s embattled president.

It is understood the EU’s three envoys to Ukraine – the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland – stayed on in Kiev this afternoon and will liaise with their colleagues in Brussels by phone or video link.

Death Toll

Bodies of anti-government demonstrators lay amid smouldering debris after masked protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and stones forced police from Kiev’s iconic Independence Square — the epicentre of the ex-Soviet country’s three-month-old crisis.

The retreating police unleashed a hail of rubber bullets on protesters as plumes of acrid smoke billowed into the air amid the explosions of stun grenades.

The lobby of the Ukraina hotel overlooking the square was turned into an impromptu morgue, with the bodies of seven dead protesters laying side by side under white sheets on the marble floor in front of the reception desk.

An AFP photographer saw spent live cartridge shells littering the ground on the square. It was unclear who had used the ammunition.

image

Efrem Lukatsky/AP/Press Association Images

The country’s three main opposition leaders put the blame for the fresh unrest on the authorities, calling it a “planned provocation.”

The clashes shattered a truce that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych called last last night in response to a spurt of violence that killed more than two dozen people in less than two days.

Yanukovych was holding crisis talks with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland this morning ahead of an emergency meeting in Brussels at which the EU is expected to impose sanctions against Ukrainian government officials.

The Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said on Twitter this morning that officials were ‘panicky’, and posted these photos of his journey to the talks:

image

It was reported earlier that the ministers had flown out before the discussions could take place due to security concerns. However, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian President later confirmed the meeting was under way.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore will also be attending that meeting extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, which was called yesterday to address the worsening crisis in Ukraine.

In a statement released ahead of the meeting, he said Ireland was “ready to contemplate measures — including targeted sanctions — in order to restore calm and resolve the political crisis”.

He said: “I believe we need to respond in a robust manner and send a clear message that the violence we have seen in recent days is simply unacceptable”.

“The use of force cannot be a means of resolving the political stalemate in Ukraine. The only sustainable way forward is genuine political engagement which is focused on meeting the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.”

image

Marko Drobnjakovic/AP/Press Association Images

Other developments today:

  • Top officials were evacuated from Ukraine’s main government building close to Independence Square earlier due to security concerns.
  • Kiev’s mayor resigned from President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Regions Party in protest over the “bloodshed”. Volodymyr Makeyenko said in a statement. “I have decided to resign from the Regions Party and assume personal responsibility for the livelihood of the city of Kiev.”
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukrainian “extremists and hardliners” of seeking to spark a civil war.  He said Moscow supported negotiations between Ukranian authorities and the opposition, so they could try to overcome “this crisis and together”.


(Youtube: France 24English)

Ukraine’s crisis was initially ignited by Yanukovych’s shock decision in November to ditch an historic EU trade and political association agreement in favour of closer ties with Russia.

But it has since evolved into a much broader anti-government movement that has swept through both the pro-Western west of the country as well as parts of its more Moscow-leaning east.

AFP reporting with additional detail by Daragh Brophy

First posted 7.16am

Related: At least 25 dead as Ukraine president blames protesters>

Photos: 13 people killed in Kiev after police storm protest camp>

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