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Another fatality in Kiev protests as minister warns peace efforts 'futile'

Protesters in Kiev are warning the conflict will escalate if President Viktor Yanukovych uses force to end the demonstrations.

Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev
Orthodox priests pray as they stand between pro-European Union activists and police lines in central Kiev
Image: Sergei Grits/AP/Press Association Images

ONE MORE UKRANIAN protester who was severely wounded in clashes with riot police has died in hospital, Kiev officials have confirmed, bringing the official death toll from the unrest to three.

“He had severe injuries, underwent several operations, but died in hospital,” a spokeswoman of Kiev medical department told AFP.

According to nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party, the victim was 45-year-old Roman Senyk, who was badly injured in his lungs Wednesday during clashes with police.

According to protesters, this is the sixth fatality in the clashes.

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A protester prepares to throw a tire onto a fire during clashes with police in central Kiev this morning. [Sergei Grits/AP/Press Association Images]

The death comes as the Ukrainian interior minister warns that efforts to solve the country’s deadly crisis without using force were “futile”.

Activists say the conflict risks spiralling into another bloody confrontation if President Viktor Yanukovych chooses to use force to end the well-fortified two-month-old protest camp in the capital.

Overnight, demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at police who responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets, AFP correspondents said.

The exchanges on Grushevsky Street in Kiev lacked the ferocious intensity of those earlier in the week, but will raise concerns about the sustainability of the truce brokered by opposition leader and world champion Vitali Klitschko in place since early on Thursday.

With tensions rising in Kiev as hundreds poured into the protest zone this morning, Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko bluntly warned that the use of force was possible.

“The events of the last days in the Ukrainian capital have shown that our attempts to solve the conflict peacefully, without recourse to a confrontation of force, remain futile,” he said in a statement.

Accusing the mainstream opposition of failing to control radicals, Zakharchenko said the authorities now had information that the protesters were “hoarding firearms” at their headquarters.

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Opposition leader and former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko addresses protesters on Thursday [Sergei Chuzavkov/AP/Press Association Images]

But in a sign of a possible split within the ruling Regions Party over how to deal with the crisis, Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov said that talks could be the only solution.

“There can be only one solution to the political crisis — a peaceful one. Any use of force is unacceptable,” said Akhmetov, an ally of Yanukovych and bankroller of his party.

“The only way out is to move from street confrontation to negotiations,” he added in a statement released by his SCM holding company.

Kiev has been buzzing with rumours that Yanukovych plans a state of emergency to put down the protests once and for all, even though the president has assured the EU he has no plan to do so.

Further ratcheting up the tensions, the interior ministry called on protesters to free two policemen who it said had been captured and held in the Kiev city hall which has been occupied by protesters for the last weeks.

The opposition has denied the claim.

(Youtube: AFP)

But in a clear threat to storm the building if they are not released, the interior ministry said it demanded the officers’ immediate liberation.

“If this is not fulfilled then the police will have to carry out measures to free those captured,” it said in a statement.

In another conspicuously-timed move, President Viktor Yanukovych appointed a new head of the Kiev city administration, sacking previous incumbent Olexander Popov who had been blamed over violence against protesters last year.

The epicentre of the crisis — Ukraine’s worst since 1991 independence — was relatively calm early this morning, but hundreds of protesters were still at the scene with the security forces on the other side of their lines.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Two killed in Ukraine clashes

Explainer: What exactly is going on in Ukraine?

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