Violence, death and a failed political process in Ukraine
As violence escalates in Ukraine, the possibility for a peaceful solution to the crisis is shrinking.Upper Pechersk, is one of the oldest and most respectable residential areas in Ukraine's capital Kiev. Historic buildings, neat streets, fancy stores, beautiful parks and numerous offices of the so-called "governmental quarter" create this special island of prosperity in a country where more than one quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
After the January clashes between protesters and police on Hrushevskogo St, where the parliament and the cabinet of ministers' buildings are located, this neighbourhood has turned into a militarised zone, with police barricades blocking off the streets.
On February 18 the area looked like a real warzone after a two-week truce expired. On February 20, after another short-lived police withdrawal, violence erupted again.
Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day since Soviet times on Thursday with a gun battle in central Kiev as President Viktor Yanukovich faced conflicting pressures from visiting European Union ministers and his Russian paymasters.
Three hours of fierce fighting in Independence Square, which was recaptured by anti-government protesters, left the bodies of over 20 civilians strewn on the ground, a few hundred meters from where the president met the EU delegation.
Riot police were captured on video shooting from a rooftop at demonstrators in the plaza, known as the Maidan or "Euro-Maidan". Protesters hurled petrol bombs and paving stones to drive the security forces off a corner of the square the police had captured in battles that began on two days earlier.
Kiev's city health department said 67 people had been killed since Tuesday, which meant at least 39 died in Thursday's clashes. That was by far the worst violence since Ukraine emerged from the crumbling Soviet Union 22 years ago.
The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland met for a marathon four hours with Yanukovich and extended their stay to put a roadmap for a political solution to opposition leaders. Diplomatic sources familiar with the discussions said it involved a temporary government until fresh elections.
"About to start a meeting with the opposition so as to test proposed agreement," tweeted Polish minister Radoslaw Sikorski.Meanwhile their EU colleagues agreed at an emergency meeting in Brussels to move ahead with visa bans and asset freezes on those deemed responsible for the violence, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said.