Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has less than 24 hours to agree to hold early elections and lift anti-protest laws or the tens of thousands of demonstrators who have been in the streets of Kiev for days will go “on the attack,” a leader of the opposition says.
“Mr. Klitschko said [President Viktor Yanukovych] could end the stand-off ‘without bloodshed’ by calling early elections, but that ‘tomorrow, if the president does not respond … then we will go on the attack,’ to roars of approval from the crowd.”
On Wednesday, two protesters were reportedly shot and killed during clashes with security forces. The BBC says that Ukraine’s Radio Liberty reported that the body of another protester “was found in a forest outside Kiev, bearing signs of torture.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds that “on Hrushevskyy Street in central Kyiv, not far from Independence Square, black smoke darkened the sky after protesters there ensured that burning barricades were kept fueled throughout the night [Wednesday into Thursday]. Police used water cannon to try to douse the walls of flames and fired stun grenades at those trying to keep the fires burning, but to no avail.”
From Moscow, NPR’s Corey Flintoff reminds us that “the opposition accuses Yanukovych of trying to seize autocratic power.” There have been protests since last November, when Yanukovych decided Ukraine should pull out of a pending treaty with the European Union. As Corey has reported previously:
“The deal that Yanukovych rejected would have opened up greater trade and investment from the EU, but it would have also required Yanukovych to fight corruption and make democratic reforms. Instead, he made a deal with Russian President [Vladimir] Putin that, as far as we know, at least, didn’t require any reforms. Russia is lending Ukraine $15 billion. It’s giving a big discount on the price of natural gas that the country relies on for most of its energy. And the opposition accuses Yanukovych of making the country so deeply indebted to Russia that it will never get out of Moscow’s orbit.”
In Kiev, demonstrators have used tires to build barricades. Smoke is billowing from those piles, as the BBC reports. The center of the city is a “vision of hell,” according to BBC correspondent Daniel Sandford.