Death toll is on the rise in ongoing Kiev clashes
MOSCOW, February 20 (RAPSI) - The number of deaths in the ongoing clashes between the protesters and police in Kiev has officialy risen to 35, the Ukranian Health Ministry announced Thursday.
Unrest erupted around noon Tuesday as thousands of people marched on the parliament building, where a standoff was taking place over proposed constitutional reforms that the opposition said could provide a way out of the political crisis that is paralyzing the country. The violence that ensued lasted for hours and resulted in numerous deaths and hundreds of injuries.
On Thursday, the US State Department reported that visa sanctions were imposed against 20 civilian Ukrainian officials deemed responsibe for the escalation of violence.
Official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Aleksandr Lukashevich said that the current situation in Kiev is a an attempt to overthrow the government and seize power. "There is no doubt, after today's events especially, when the militants used firearms - that we're dealling with a unmitigated coup here, and use of force to overthrow the government. We denounce the actions of radical element, which harbors the responsibility for the violence and disorder," Lukashevich said on Thursday.
Authorities and opposition representatives have traded accusations over who was responsible for escalating the violence. Police say radical protesters have secured hundreds of firearms. Authorities earlier in the day accused the opposition of harboring violent elements who they identified as snipers firing at police.
Mass protests initially erupted in late November after the government backed away from deals to deepen political and economic cooperation with the European Union and instead opted for closer ties with Russia.
Although at first discontent was focused on that about-face move on EU ties, protests have since taken on a more general anti-government quality, calling for the president’s ouster and early elections.