CHRONICLES OF OUR GENERATION

CHRONICLES OF OUR GENERATION

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DEATHS AND MAYHEM: Protest in Ukraine

 

 

 

Protest in Ukraine

 

Tossing firebombs, protesters advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine's embattled capital. Government snipers shot back, killing at least 70 people and wounding hundreds of others, according to a protest doctor.

Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes today of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or planks of wood.

One of the wounded, volunteer medic Olesya Zhukovskaya, sent out a brief Twitter message - 'I'm dying' - after being shot in the neck. Dr Oleh Musiy, the medical coordinator for the protesters, said she was in serious condition after being operated on.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEOS

Shocking footage has emerged of protesters being shot by sniper fire

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Shocking footage has emerged of protesters being shot by sniper fire

One clip begins with protesters advancing as a group behind shields

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One clip begins with protesters advancing as a group behind shields

Suddenly several members of the group are sent sprawling, appearing to have been shot

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Suddenly several members of the group are sent sprawling, appearing to have been shot

The protesters' shields and helmets are in no way adequate protection against sniper fire and they are sent into a panic

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The protesters' shields and helmets are in no way adequate protection against sniper fire and they are sent into a panic

Protesters form a protective shield against the wounded

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Protesters form a protective shield against the wounded

Some of the protesters on the video appear to have been shot dead, while others are clearly badly hurt and shaken

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Some of the protesters on the video appear to have been shot dead, while others are clearly badly hurt and shaken

GRAPHIC CONTENT: Death toll rises as fighting intensifies in Kiev

Protesters were also seen leading policemen with their hands held high around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev. Ukraine's Interior ministry says 67 police were captured in all - it was not clear how. An opposition lawmaker said they were being held in Kiev's occupied city hall.

President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who are demanding his resignation are locked in an epic battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country - mostly in its western cities - are in open revolt against Yanukovych's central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

Protesters across the country are also upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights and the country's ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with a $15billion loan from Russia.

The police snipers made no attempt to conceal themselves

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The police snipers made no attempt to conceal themselves

This officer appears to be brandishing an automatic weapon

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This officer appears to be brandishing an automatic weapon

Ukrainian police and snipers seen opening fire at protesters

 

Grim toll: Activists pay respects to protesters who were killed in clashes with police

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Grim toll: Activists pay respects to protesters who were killed in clashes with police

Harrowing: An anti-government protester with severe head injuries received during clashes with riot police receives medical care at a makeshift hospital in Kiev

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Harrowing: An anti-government protester with severe head injuries received during clashes with riot police receives medical care at a makeshift hospital in Kiev

Desperate: Many protestors were injured by sniper fire and reports on how many are dead are conlflicting

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Desperate: Many protestors were injured by sniper fire and reports on how many are dead are conlflicting

Angels of mercy: Medics rig up a makeshift hospital at a hotel  in central Kiev

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Angels of mercy: Medics rig up a makeshift hospital at a hotel in central Kiev

Dead bodies are seen on the ground after clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police

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Dead bodies are seen on the ground after clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police

An injured man reacts as he is attended by anti-government protesters

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An injured man reacts as he is attended by anti-government protesters

Medics tend to a gravely wounded anti-government protester in the lobby of the Hotel Ukraine, which has been converted to a medical clinic and makeshift morgue

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Medics tend to a gravely wounded anti-government protester in the lobby of the Hotel Ukraine, which has been converted to a medical clinic and makeshift morgue

Anti-government protesters detain a wounded policeman (centre) during clashes in the Independence Square

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Anti-government protesters detain a wounded policeman (centre) during clashes in the Independence Square

Protesters drag captured police officer through the streets of Kiev

 

An anti-government protester shoots an improvised device during clashes with riot police in the Independence Square

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An anti-government protester shoots an improvised device during clashes with riot police in the Independence Square

Riot police fire at anti government demonstrators on the Independence square in Kiev

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Riot police fire at anti government demonstrators on the Independence square in Kiev

An Orthodox priest walks under fire during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police in central Kiev

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An Orthodox priest walks under fire during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police in central Kiev

Escalation: A protestor takes aim with a double-barrelled shotgun during the clashes

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Escalation: A protestor takes aim with a double-barrelled shotgun during the clashes

Anti-government protestors have been seen with civilian firearms, such as rifles and shotguns

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Anti-government protestors have been seen with civilian firearms, such as rifles and shotguns

The opposition is insisting on Yanukovych's resignation and an early election while the embattled president is apparently prepared to fight until the end

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The opposition is insisting on Yanukovych's resignation and an early election while the embattled president is apparently prepared to fight until the end

Refuge: Activists have a rest at the burning barricades, on the side of bloody clashes close to Independence Square, the epicentre of the country's current unrest

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Refuge: Activists have a rest at the burning barricades, on the side of bloody clashes close to Independence Square, the epicentre of the country's current unrest

Rioters hold a captured police helmet, apparently covered in blood

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Rioters hold a captured police helmet, apparently covered in blood

Anti-government protesters take cover while under fire reportedly of police sniper fire

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Anti-government protesters take cover while under fire reportedly of police sniper fire

Armed: An anti-government protester holds a shotgun as he mans a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square

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Armed: An anti-government protester holds a shotgun as he mans a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square

A protester prepares to hurl a cobblestone at police

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A protester prepares to hurl a cobblestone at police

Resistance: Activists prepare to push forward during continued clashes with police

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Resistance: Activists prepare to push forward during continued clashes with police

Activists try to protect themselves from fire as they clash with security forces

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Activists try to protect themselves from fire as they clash with security forces

A protest doctor told AP that at least 70 protesters were killed Thursday and over 500 were wounded in the clashes - and that the death toll could well rise further

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A protest doctor told AP that at least 70 protesters were killed Thursday and over 500 were wounded in the clashes - and that the death toll could well rise further

Live rounds: A protester holds a cartridge and two empty cases he found during clashes with police in central Kiev on Thursday

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Live rounds: A protester holds a cartridge and two empty cases he found during clashes with police in central Kiev on Thursday

At least 101 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in three months of mostly peaceful protests. Now neither side appears willing to compromise or in control of the streets.

The opposition is insisting on Yanukovych's resignation and an early election while the embattled president is apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Thursday was the deadliest day yet at the sprawling protest camp on Kiev's Independence Square, also called the Maidan. Snipers were seen shooting at protesters there - and video footage showed at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.

Musiy, the protest doctor, told the AP that at least 70 protesters were killed Thursday and over 500 were wounded in the clashes - and that the death toll could well rise further.

In addition, three policemen were killed Thursday and 28 suffered gunshot wounds, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP.

Matsotska quits Olympics in solidarity with Ukraine protesters

There was no way to immediately verify any of the death tolls. Earlier in the day, an Associated Press reporter saw the bodies of 21 protesters laid out near Kiev's protest camp.

The White House expressed renewed outrage Thursday over the continuing deadly violence in Ukraine but had reached no decision on whether to impose sanctions.

Military action by the U.S. is not among the options being considered, deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said.

'The options available to the president are being considered with some urgency,' he told reporters, adding that sanctions were the only measure under active consideration.

In Brussels, the 28-nation European Union decided Thursday in an emergency meeting to impose sanctions against those behind the violence, including a travel ban and an asset freeze against some Ukrainian officials.

President Barack Obama discussed the situation by telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the White House said.

The White House has urged President Viktor Yanukovych to withdraw forces from downtown Kiev immediately.

Defeated: Captured police officers are led away by the protesters

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Defeated: Captured police officers are led away by the protesters

Earnest said the Ukrainian government has the primary responsibility for keeping the peace, but that the Ukrainian people must also respect their right to peaceful protest. He said 'having those rights trampled' is a source of some concern to the U.S. and again called on the government and the opposition to negotiate a political solution to restore order.

'Basic human rights that we hold so dear in this country are not being respected in that country,' Earnest said.

Although the first weeks of the protests were determinedly peaceful, radical elements have become more influential as impatience with the lack of progress grows. In their battles Thursday, those hard-hatted protesters with makeshift weapons regained some of the territory on the Maidan's fringes that police had seized earlier in the week.

One camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, told the AP that protesters threw firebombs at riot police on the square overnight. As the sun rose, police pulled back, protesters followed them and police then began shooting at them, he said.

The Interior Ministry warned Kiev residents to stay indoors Thursday because of the 'armed and aggressive mood of the people'.

More dead in Kiev as 'truce' fails and clashes continue

Vitalii Klitschko, Head of the UDAR (Punch) party, addressing policemen guarding the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Thursday

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Vitalii Klitschko, Head of the UDAR (Punch) party, addressing policemen guarding the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Thursday

Talks: (Left to right) Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius discuss the Ukraine crisis in Brussels

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Talks: (Left to right) Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius discuss the Ukraine crisis in Brussels

Fiery: Opposition protesters carry old tyres to be burnt on barricades

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Fiery: Opposition protesters carry old tyres to be burnt on barricades

Anti-government protesters carry an injured man on a stretcher after clashes with riot police in Kiev on Thursday

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Anti-government protesters carry an injured man on a stretcher after clashes with riot police in Kiev on Thursday

Body armour: An anti-government protester carries his shield past a bonfire with burning tyres as riot policemen fire live bullets on them in Independence Square

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Body armour: An anti-government protester carries his shield past a bonfire with burning tyres as riot policemen fire live bullets on them in Independence Square

Wounded: An activist is carried away to be treated

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Wounded: An activist is carried away to be treated

Shocking violence: Men cover a dead body in Independence Square in Kiev as anti-government protesters seized back control of it

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Shocking violence: Men cover a dead body in Independence Square in Kiev as anti-government protesters seized back control of it

Protesters run with an injured man on a stretcher in Independence Square on Thursday morning after violence erupted once more

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Protesters run with an injured man on a stretcher in Independence Square on Thursday morning after violence erupted once more

William Hague: It is not right to describe protesters as terrorists

Neither side appears willing to compromise, with the opposition insisting on Yanukovych's resignation and an early election and the president apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Amid the carnage, signs were emerging that Yanukovych is losing loyalists as the crisis roils. The chief of Kiev's city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced Thursday he was leaving Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

‘We must be guided only by the interests of the people, this is our only chance to save people's lives,’ he said, adding he would continue to fulfill his duties as long as he had the people's trust.

Another influential member of the ruling party, Serhiy Tyhipko, said both Yanukovych and opposition leaders had ‘completely lost control of the situation.’

‘Their inaction is leading to the strengthening of opposition and human victims,’ the Interfax news agency reported.

Obama gives warning to Ukraine

In a statement Thursday, Yanukovych claimed that police were not armed and ‘all measures to stop bloodshed and confrontation are being taken.’

As the violence exploded and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries - France, Germany and Poland - met with Yanukovych, after their meeting with the opposition leaders.

European Union foreign ministers, meanwhile, have agreed to move ahead with imposing sanctions including visa bans and asset freezes on those responsible for the violence in Ukraine, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said on Thursday.

Speaking as she left an emergency gathering in Brussels, Bonino said the position had been agreed with the French, German and Polish foreign ministers, who are currently in Kiev negotiating with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

'The decision is to proceed very rapidly, in the next hours, to a visa ban and asset freeze on those who have committed the violence,' she told reporters.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, arriving for the EU meeting, condemned the killing of more protesters in Kiev, calling it ‘utterly unacceptable and indefensible.’

Ongoing demonstration: Protesters let off fireworks in Independence Square on Wednesday

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Ongoing demonstration: Protesters let off fireworks in Independence Square on Wednesday

Protesters burn as they stand behind barricades during clashes with police on Thursday

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Protesters burn as they stand behind barricades during clashes with police on Thursday

Recovery: Anti-government protesters get some rest inside a building in Independence Square on Wednesday

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Recovery: Anti-government protesters get some rest inside a building in Independence Square on Wednesday

Russia criticised the European actions, calling them 'blackmail' that would only make matters worse.

The White House urged Ukraine's president on Thursday to immediately withdraw security forces from downtown Kiev and respect the right of peaceful protest after a truce fell apart and the death toll mounted.

'We are outraged by images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people,' White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

The United States, which has called for sanctions, already has cancelled the visas of several Ukrainian officials connected with the police violence.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would limit the president's power - a key opposition demand. Parliament, dominated by his supporters, was stalling on taking up a constitutional reform.

In a statement early Thursday, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said 28 people have died and 287 have been hospitalised during the two days of street violence. Protesters who have set up a medical care facility in a downtown cathedral so that wounded colleagues would not be snatched by police at the hospital say the number of injured are significantly higher - possibly double or triple that.

John Kerry condemns Ukraine violence

Apocalyptic: A battle scene is covered with flame and smoke while riot police stand in the background

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Apocalyptic: A battle scene is covered with flame and smoke while riot police stand in the background

Russian leader Vladimir Putin strongly denied accusations he was acting as Yanukovych's puppet master

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Russian leader Vladimir Putin strongly denied accusations he was acting as Yanukovych's puppet master

Molotov cocktails stand ready as protesters prepare their camp for another onslaught

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Molotov cocktails stand ready as protesters prepare their camp for another onslaught

Police retreat after being chased by protesters in Kiev

Yanukovych claimed Thursday that police were not armed and 'all measures to stop bloodshed and confrontation are being taken.' But the Interior Ministry later contradicted that, saying law enforcers were armed as part of an 'anti-terrorist' operation.

The parliament building was evacuated Thursday because of fears that protesters would storm it, as were the government office in Kiev and the Foreign Ministry buildings. But parliament convened in the afternoon, with some pro-government lawmakers heeding the opposition's call to work out a solution to the political stalemate.

As the violence exploded Thursday morning and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three EU countries - France, Germany and Poland - met with Yanukovych for five hours after speaking with the opposition leaders. The EU ministers then returned to speak again with opposition leaders.

Leaving in protest: Ukrainian skier Bogdana Matsotska speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at the Sochi Games

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Leaving in protest: Ukrainian skier Bogdana Matsotska speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at the Sochi Games

Prior to the clashes Thursday, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said 28 people have died and 287 have been hospitalized this week. But protesters who have set up a medical facility in a downtown cathedral so that wounded colleagues would not be snatched away by police say the number of wounded is significantly higher - possibly double or triple that.

The Caritas Ukraine aid group praised the protest medics but said many of the wounded will need long-term care, including prosthetics.

The clashes this week have been the most deadly since protests kicked off in November after Yanukovych shelved an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Russia then announced a $15billion bailout for Ukraine.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin was sending former ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to Ukraine to act as a mediator.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will 'try to do our best' to fulfill its financial obligations to Ukraine, but indicated Moscow would hold back on further bailout installments until the crisis is resolved.

'We need partners that are in good shape and a Ukrainian government that is legitimate and effective,' he said.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Ukrainian alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, 24, said she will not take part in Friday's women's slalom due to the developments in Kiev.

'As a protest against lawless actions made toward protesters, the lack of responsibility from the side of the president and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games,' her father and coach, Oleg Matsotskyy, wrote in a Facebook post.

 

The violence on the streets of Ukraine is far more than an expression of popular anger against a government.  Instead, it is merely the latest example of the rise of the most insidious form of fascism that Europe has seen since the fall of the Third Reich.

Recent months have seen regular protests by the Ukrainian political opposition and its supporters –  protests ostensibly in response to Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union that was seen by many political observers as the first step towards European integration.  The protests remained largely peaceful until January 17th when protesters armed with clubs, helmets, and improvised bombs unleashed brutal violence on the police, storming government buildings, beating anyone suspected of pro-government sympathies, and generally wreaking havoc on the streets of Kiev.  But who are these violent extremists and what is their ideology?

ukrainian-nationalists-attacked-police si-1

The political formation is known as “Pravy Sektor” (Right Sector), which is essentially an umbrella organization for a number of ultra-nationalist (read fascist) right wing groups including supporters of the “Svoboda” (Freedom) Party, “Patriots of Ukraine”, “Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self Defense” (UNA-UNSO), and “Trizub”.  All of these organizations share a common ideology that is vehemently anti-Russian, anti-immigrant, and anti-Jewish among other things.  In addition they share a common reverence for the so called “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists” led by Stepan Bandera, the infamous Nazi collaborators who actively fought against the Soviet Union and engaged in some of the worst atrocities committed by any side in World War II.

While Ukrainian political forces, opposition and government, continue to negotiate, a very different battle is being waged in the streets.  Using intimidation and brute force more typical of Hitler’s “Brownshirts” or Mussolini’s “Blackshirts” than a contemporary political movement, these groups have managed to turn a conflict over economic policy and the political allegiances of the country into an existential struggle for the very survival of the nation that these so called “nationalists” claim to love so dearly.  The images of Kiev burning, Lviv streets filled with thugs, and other chilling examples of the chaos in the country, illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the political negotiation with the Maidan (Kiev’s central square and center of the protests) opposition is now no longer the central issue.  Rather, it is the question of Ukrainian fascism and whether it is to be supported or rejected.

For its part, the United States has strongly come down on the side of the opposition, regardless of its political character.  In early December, members of the US ruling establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were seen at Maidan lending their support to the protesters.  However, as the character of the opposition has become apparent in recent days, the US and Western ruling class and its media machine have done little to condemn the fascist upsurge.  Instead, their representatives have met with representatives of Right Sector and deemed them to be “no threat.”  In other words, the US and its allies have given their tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of the violence in the name of their ultimate goal: regime change.

In an attempt to pry Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence, the US-EU-NATO alliance has, not for the first time, allied itself with fascists.  Of course, for decades, millions in Latin America were disappeared or murdered by fascist paramilitary forces armed and supported by the United States.  The mujahideen of Afghanistan, which later transmogrified into Al Qaeda, also extreme ideological reactionaries, were created and financed by the United States for the purposes of destabilizing Russia.  And of course, there is the painful reality of Libya and, most recently Syria, where the United States and its allies finance and support extremist jihadis against a government that has refused to align with the US and Israel.  There is a disturbing pattern here that has never been lost on keen political observers: the United States always makes common cause with right wing extremists and fascists for geopolitical gain.

The situation in Ukraine is deeply troubling because it represents a political conflagration that could very easily tear the country apart less than 25 years after it gained independence from the Soviet Union.  However, there is another equally disturbing aspect to the rise of fascism in that country – it is not alone.

The Fascist Menace Across the Continent

Ukraine and the rise of right wing extremism there cannot be seen, let alone understood, in isolation.  Rather, it must be examined as part of a growing trend throughout Europe (and indeed the world) – a trend which threatens the very foundations of democracy.

In Greece, savage austerity imposed by the troika (IMF, ECB, and European Commission) has crippled the country’s economy, leading to a depression as bad, if not worse, than the Great Depression in the United States.  It is against this backdrop of economic collapse that the Golden Dawn party has grown to become the third most popular political party in the country.  Espousing an ideology of hate, the Golden Dawn – in effect a Nazi party that promotes anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, anti-women chauvinism – is a political force that the government in Athens has understood to be a serious threat to the very fabric of society.  It is this threat which led the government to arrest the party’s leadership after a Golden Dawn Nazi fatally stabbed an anti-fascist rapper.  Athens has launched an investigation into the party, though the results of this investigation and trial remain somewhat unclear.

What makes Golden Dawn such an insidious threat is the fact that, despite their central ideology of Nazism, their anti-EU, anti-austerity rhetoric appeals to many in the economically devastated Greece.  As with many fascist movements in the 20th Century, Golden Dawn scapegoats immigrants, Muslim and African primarily, for many of the problems facing Greeks.  In dire economic circumstances, such irrational hate becomes appealing; an answer to the question of how to solve society’s problems.  Indeed, despite Golden Dawn’s leaders being jailed, other party members are still in parliament, still running for major offices including mayor of Athens.  Though an electoral victory is unlikely, another strong showing at the polls will make the eradication of fascism in Greece that much harder.

Were this phenomenon confined to Greece and Ukraine, it would not constitute a continental trend.  Sadly however, we see the rise of similar, albeit slightly less overtly fascist, political parties all over Europe.  In Spain, the ruling pro-austerity People’s Party has moved to establish draconian laws restricting protest and free speech, and empowering and sanctioning repressive police tactics.  In France, the National Front Party of Marine Le Pen, which vehemently scapegoats Muslim and African immigrants, won nearly twenty percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections.  Similarly, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands – which promotes anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies – has grown to be the third largest in parliament.  Throughout Scandinavia, ultra nationalist parties which once toiled in complete irrelevance and obscurity are now significant players in elections.  These trends are worrying to say the least.

It should be noted too that, beyond Europe, there are a number of quasi-fascist political formations which are, in one way or another, supported by the United States.  The right wing coups that overthrew the governments of Paraguay and Honduras were tacitly and/or overtly supported by Washington in their seemingly endless quest to suppress the Left in Latin America.  Of course, one should also remember that the protest movement in Russia was spearheaded by Alexei Navalny and his nationalist followers who espouse a virulently anti-Muslim, racist ideology that views immigrants from the Russian Caucasus and former Soviet republics as beneath “European Russians”.  These and other examples begin to paint a very ugly portrait of a US foreign policy that attempts to use economic hardship and political upheaval to extend US hegemony around the world.

In Ukraine, the “Right Sector” has taken the fight from the negotiating table to the streets in an attempt to fulfill the dream of Stepan Bandera – a Ukraine free of Russia, Jews, and all other “undesirables” as they see it.  Buoyed by the continued support from the US and Europe, these fanatics represent a more serious threat to democracy than Yanukovich and the pro-Russian government ever could.  If Europe and the United States don’t recognize this threat in its infancy, by the time they finally do, it might just be too late.

Months of demonstrations against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to abandon an EU integration pact have snarled the country in a political crisis. Last week, tough anti-protest legislation was rushed through parliament, which political opponents say paves the way for a police state. In response, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in central Kiev, swelling the ranks of those already camping in Independence Square, and demonstrations turned violent. Bloody clashes took place between police and protesters yesterday, leaving more than 200 people wounded. The standoff continued into this morning, with no immediate resolution in sight.

A pro-European protester throws a stone during clashes with Ukrainian riot police in Kiev, on January 19, 2014. Protesters attacked riot police with sticks in Kiev on Sunday and tried to overturn a bus blocking their path to parliament, as up to 100,000 Ukrainians massed in defiance of sweeping new laws aimed at stamping out anti-government demonstrations. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

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Pro-European integration protesters sing an anthem during a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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Barricades and protesters' tents in Independence Square in Kiev, where the pro-EU demonstrators held a rally on January 17, 2014.(Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Protesters attack riot police in central Kiev, on January 19, 2014. A group of radical activists began attacking riot police with sticks, trying to push their way toward the Ukrainian parliament building, which has been cordoned off by rows of police vehicles and buses.(AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov) #

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A pro-European integration protester stands on a barricade with a national flag during a rally in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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A woman watches riot police officers protecting themselves from protesters during an opposition rally in the center Kiev, in a show of defiance against strict new curbs on protests, on January 19, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Opposition leader and former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko (center) speaks to protesters during a pro-European integration rally in Kiev, on January 19, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Vitaly Klitschko is attacked and sprayed with a fire extinguisher as he tries to stop the clash between police and protesters in Kiev, on January 19, 2014. (AP Photo /Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Vitaly Klitschko, after being attacked and sprayed with a fire extinguisher as he tried to stop clashes between police and protesters in Kiev, on January 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Pro-European integration protesters attack a police van during a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev, on January 19, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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A protester throws a stone at Ukrainian riot police in Kiev, on January 19, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Protesters with both improvised shields and shields taken from riot police prepare to clash with police in Kiev, on January 19, 2014.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Ukrainian riot police take cover during clashes with pro-European integration protesters in Kiev, on January 19, 2014.(Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Protesters clash with Ukrainian riot police during a rally near government administration buildings in Kiev, on January 19, 2014.(Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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A protester stands next to a bus in flames as protesters clash with riot police in Kiev, on January 19, 2014.(Anatolii Boiko/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Riot police react after being hit by a petrol bomb in Kiev, on January 19, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #

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A protester throws a Molotov cocktail towards a burning police car, during clashes with police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Burned police vehicles, after a rally of pro-European integration protesters in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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Ukrainian riot police take cover behind their shields in front of a burned bus during a continued protest near government administration buildings in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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A protester sits in a burned police bus in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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A bare chested man waves a Ukrainian flag during clashes between the opposition and police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Protesters clash with police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. Protesters erected barricades from charred vehicles and other materials in central Kiev as the sound of stun grenades was heard in the freezing air as police try to quell anti-government street protests.(AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov) #

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Protesters clash with police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov) #

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A protester prepares to throw a Molotov cocktail during clashes with the police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. EU foreign ministers deplored violent protests in Kiev, saying the government was at fault for passing a package of repressive laws in an effort to tame pro-EU demonstrations. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a battle with police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. After a night of vicious streets battles, anti-government protesters and police clashed anew Monday in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman) #

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A pro-European integration protester aims his air gun towards riot police during clashes in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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Ukrainian Riot police officers shoot rubber bullets and throw a stun grenade at anti-government protesters, on January 20, 2014.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Protesters run away from tear gas in the center of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A protester displays rubber bullets and pellets used by police during clashes in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A protester reacts after being injured by a rubber bullet during unrest in central Kiev, Ukraine, on Monday, January 20, 2014.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Pro-European integration protesters carry Molotov cocktails during clashes with police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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A stun grenade explodes amid protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, on January 20, 2014. After a night of vicious streets battles, anti-government protesters and police clashed anew Monday. Hundreds of protesters, many wearing balaclavas, hurled rocks and stun grenades and police responded with tear gas. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine took to the streets to demonstrate against President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to abandon an EU integration pact, as he works to strengthen economic ties to Russia, rather than Europe. Protesters blockaded government buildings and occupied Independence Square in Kiev today, seeking to force Yanukovich from office. After harsh crackdowns last night, demonstrations continued this morning, with leaders calling for a nationwide strike.

Protesters try to break through police lines near the presidential administration building during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. Ukrainian opposition leaders called on Sunday for President Viktor Yanukovich and his government to resign at a rally of about 350,000 people, the biggest protest in the capital Kiev since the "Orange Revolution" of nine years ago. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

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People attend a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. Ukraine's interior minister warned protesters starting a pro-Europe rally in the capital Kiev on Sunday that police would respond if there were mass disturbances.(Reuters/Stoyan Nenov) #

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Opposition protesters face riot police on November 29, 2013 during a demonstration in Kiev. Ukrainian authorities deployed hundreds of riot police to central Kiev where thousands of protesters gathered after President Viktor Yanukovych failed to salvage a key deal with the European Union. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Protesters clash with police on Independence Square in Kiev early on November 30, 2013. Dozens of protesters were wounded in Ukraine's capital when police brutally dispersed demonstrators calling for President Viktor Yanukovych's ouster after he failed to salvage an EU deal.(STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Wounded Reuters photographer Gleb Garanich, who was injured by riot police, takes pictures as riot police block protesters during a scuffle at a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kiev, on November 30, 2013. (Reuters/Stringer) #

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A protester waves a Ukranian flag from a moving car in Kiev, on November 30, 2013. Ukraine's political opposition said it would call a general strike to force the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovich's government after police used batons and stun grenades to break up pro-Europe protests. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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Supporters of EU integration hold a rally in the Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square in central Kiev, on December 1, 2013.(Reuters/Stoyan Nenov) #

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Lawmaker and chairman of the Ukrainian opposition party Udar (Punch), WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, (left, on the platform), waves a flag during a rally in downtown Kiev, on December 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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People wear helmets and masks as they attend a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, on December 1, 2013.(Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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Demonstrators gather during a rally in downtown Kiev, on December 1, 2013. The mass rally in central Kiev defied a government ban on protests on Independence Square, in the biggest show of anger over President Viktor Yanukovych's refusal to sign a political and economic agreement with the European Union. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Interior Ministry officers and riot police block the way of protesters near the presidential administration building during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Protesters dig up stones during clashes with police outside the presidential administration building in downtown Kiev, on December 1, 2013. A protest by about 300,000 Ukrainians angered by their government's decision to freeze integration with the West turned violent, when a group of demonstrators besieged the president's office and police drove them back with truncheons, tear gas and flash grenades. Dozens of people were injured. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Protesters clash with police at Presidential office in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. As many as 100,000 demonstrators chased away police to rally in the center of Ukraine's capital on Sunday, defying a government ban on protests on Independence Square.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Stones and flares thrown by protesters land on the police line guarding the presidential administration building in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Men kneel down before a line of riot police near the presidential administration building during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. Ukrainian opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko, addressing hundreds of thousands of protesters in central Kiev, called on President Viktor Yanukovich and his government to resign, saying they had "stolen" Ukraine's dream of European integration.(Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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A protester with a chain clashes with police during the storming of the Viktor Yanukovych Presidential office in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. The crowd chanted "Revolution!" and "Down with the Gang" as it took control of Kiev's iconic Independence Square and steered a bulldozer within striking distance of police barricades protecting the nearby presidential adminstration office.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Riot police are covered by smoke during clashes outside the president's office in Kiev, on December 1, 2013.(Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Protesters use an excavator during clash with police at the presidential office in Kiev, on December 1, 2013.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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A stun grenade explodes among protesters as they clash with police during the storming of the Viktor Yanukovych Presidential office in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. AFP reporters saw security forces outside the presidential building fire stun grenades and smoke bombs at a few dozen masked demonstrators who were pelting police with huge stones and what Ukrainian media said were molotov cocktails.(Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A photographer stands in front of police members during clashes with pro-European Ukrainian demonstrators near the presidential administration office in Kiev, as outraged Ukrainians swarmed the city in a call for early elections meant to punish authorities for rejecting a historic EU pact, on December 1, 2013. Ukrainian media said President Yanukovych spent most of the day huddling with his most senior advisers at a secluded suburban residence. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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People climb up onto a gate near the presidential administration building during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Protesters clash with police guarding the presidential administration building in downtown Kiev, on December 1, 2013. Police allowed the rally to proceed peacefully, but when a few thousand protesters tried to storm the nearby presidential administration building with a front loader, riot police used tear gas, truncheons and flash grenades to drive them back. Dozens of people with what appeared to be head injuries were taken away by ambulance.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Interior Ministry members and riot policemen stand guard during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, on December 1, 2013.(Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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A flare is ignited as protesters clash with police outside the presidential administration building in downtown Kiev, on December 1, 2013.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Protesters clash with police outside the presidential office in Kiev, on December 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Kiev's landmark, the 50-meter-high (164-foot-high) Independence Column, seen through a hole in a barricade on December 2, 2013. Thousands of Ukrainian protesters besieged government buildings in Kiev and called for the ouster of the prime minister and his Cabinet, as anger at the president's decision to ditch a deal for closer ties with the European Union gripped other parts of the country and threatened his rule. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Protesters sleep on the floor as others look through a window for possible police presence inside Kiev's city hall, on December 1, 2013. Ukrainian nationalist protesters broke into Kiev's city hall and were occupying at least part of the building during mass protests that drew several hundred thousands out on the streets to protest the government's decision to forgo an EU deal. (Reuters/Stoyan Nenov) #

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Protesters rest in the Kiev City Council building which they occupied in downtown Kiev, on December 2, 2013.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Protesters rest in the Kiev City Council building which they occupied in downtown Kiev, on December 2, 2013.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Thousands of demonstrators march in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on December 2, 2013. Ukrainian protesters blockaded administrative buildings and camped on Kiev's central square in a bid to oust the government after police brutality and a row over an EU pact plunged the nation into its worst political crisis in a decade. Demonstrators were newly incensed by a crackdown on an opposition rally calling for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and his government. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)








House fit for a tyrant: Protestors storm the sprawling, luxury estate of Ukraine's fugitive president which has its own private zoo, golf course and is half the size of Monaco

  • Protestors took full control of the residence after the security detail charged with protecting the compound fled
  • Property is around an hour's drive from Kiev and stands as a symbol of the folly of the country's ousted president
  • Visitors rubbed their eyes in disbelief as they entered the compound and saw the scale of opulence
  • 140-hectare estate has a garage full of luxury sports cars below the house

A beautiful forested estate of graceful waterways, summer houses and exotic gardens.

This is the home of Ukraine's fugitive president, who was dramatically ousted from power after one of the worst periods of violence in the country's history.

Ukraniains streamed to see Viktor Yanukovich's luxury estate, which has been closed off to the world for nearly a decade, and rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they were confronted by the scale of the opulence he built around him.

The property in Mezhyhirya, an hours drive from Kiev, has a golf course, helicopter pad and is situated in a country where the average salary is less than £300 a month.

Below the house, a garage is filled with classic sports cars worth millions, while in the exotic gardens Australian and African ostriches stretch their legs.

Opulence: Ukranians walk around President Yanukovych's countryside residence in Mezhyhirya. The property has been closed off to the public during his reign

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Opulence: Ukranians walk around President Yanukovych's countryside residence in Mezhyhirya. The property has been closed off to the public during his reign

The house became a tourist attraction for the day. Visitors were able to take a look at the exotic gardens and monuments dotted around the estate

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The house became a tourist attraction for the day. Visitors were able to take a look at the exotic gardens and monuments dotted around the estate

People wander around President Viktor Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya estate, which was abandoned by security

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People wander around President Viktor Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya estate, which was abandoned by security

Protesters try to play on a golf course at the Ukrainian President Yanukovych's countryside residence in Mezhyhirya, Kiev's region. Ukrainian security and volunteers from among Independence Square protesters have joined forces to protect the presidential countryside retreat from vandalism and looting

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Protesters try to play on a golf course at the Ukrainian President Yanukovych's countryside residence in Mezhyhirya, Kiev's region. Ukrainian security and volunteers from among Independence Square protesters have joined forces to protect the presidential countryside retreat from vandalism and looting

A man wearing a kevlar vest and combat trousers plays golf on the president's private course

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A man wearing a kevlar vest and combat trousers plays golf on the president's private course

A protester poses in a bathtub at the residence has the crowds take photos of some of the sprawling outhouses

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A protester poses in a bathtub at the residence has the crowds take photos of some of the sprawling outhouses

Locals said that up to 3,000 security and support staff would arrive when Yanukovich planned a major social event.

Yanukovich, 63, who fled into hiding on Saturday as the turmoil of three months confrontation with his people caught up with him, relaxed at weekends in luxury behind high walls patrolled by scores of security guards.

When the dream ended and Yanukovich's staff fled the Gatsby-like mansion in the early hours of Saturday, the Kiev protest movement that had opposed him invited Ukrainians to go to see the opulence Yanukovich lived in.

As they poured in their thousands, by foot and by car, onto the 140-hectare grounds for a first glimpse at a luxury they could only suspect, Ukrainians gawped in wonderment at the fairytale surroundings.

A man wearing a kevlar vest and a helmet gives a peace gesture to the cameras as he relaxes on a sofa with a fellow protestor

A man wearing a kevlar vest and a helmet gives a peace gesture to the cameras as he relaxes on a sofa with a fellow protestor

A protestor waves the European Union flag outside the front door of the sprawling mansion. Opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko told supporters on her release from prison that she believed Ukraine would be joining the EU

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A protestor waves the European Union flag outside the front door of the sprawling mansion. Opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko told supporters on her release from prison that she believed Ukraine would be joining the EU

The curtains were drawn shut and the doors were locked on the outside of the house, but the scale of the luxury house is evident from the outside

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The curtains were drawn shut and the doors were locked on the outside of the house, but the scale of the luxury house is evident from the outside

Protestors watch a ship, which was converted into a restaurant. Protestors took full control of the premises after Yanukovych was ousted from power

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Protestors watch a ship, which was converted into a restaurant. Protestors took full control of the premises after Yanukovych was ousted from power

What they saw reflected more the inflated dreams of a Middle East potentate - with all the attendant obsessions with security - rather than a rough-hewn man from the gritty eastern Ukraine who got to the top the hard way.

Yanukovich bought a small house on the plot at the start of his presidency in 2010. Subsequently, according to local media, he acquired control of the full estate which exists today through a chain of companies with which he had close interests.

Beyond a five-floor Russian-style house - some said it was his guest house - a stone staircase opened up to a landscaped vista of water features, arboreal walkways and tree-lined avenues stretching into the distance.

Protestors sort through documents which were left in the house. In the background is a hovercraft and jet-propelled boat

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Protestors sort through documents which were left in the house. In the background is a hovercraft and jet-propelled boat

Some documents were discovered burnt as protestors took control of the property

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Some documents were discovered burnt as protestors took control of the property

Few people - apart from Yanukovich's chosen few and family - have visited a secret place which has been charted by satellite images that show a helicopter pad and a golf course.

With Yanukovich obsessed by security and fear of attack, they had to leave their mobile phones at the entrance to the grounds and pick them up only on leaving, locals said.

'This is a monument to a tyrant which we want to show the people,' said Eduard Leonov, a parliamentary deputy from the far-right nationalist Svoboda party.

One visitor takes in the view of the house from across the artificial lake. Hundreds of people entered the grounds but not one has entered the building itself

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One visitor takes in the view of the house from across the artificial lake. Hundreds of people entered the grounds but not one has entered the building itself

One visitor carried a Ukranian flag while touring the grounds of the house while a man in the distance takes a photo. There is a private golf course and zoo nestled in the estate

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One visitor carried a Ukranian flag while touring the grounds of the house while a man in the distance takes a photo. There is a private golf course and zoo nestled in the estate

A protester guards the entrance to Ukrainian President Yanukovych's countryside home. Viktor Yanukovych is not in his official residence of Mezhyhirya, which is about 20 km (12.5 miles) north of the capital

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A protester guards the entrance to Ukrainian President Yanukovych's countryside home. Viktor Yanukovych is not in his official residence of Mezhyhirya, which is about 20 km (12.5 miles) north of the capital

Graeco-Roman statues - a Goddess covering her modesty with her hair, lovers intertwined - decorated the lawns. Ornate ponds - half frozen on Saturday - nonetheless bubbled with water being pumped through them. Love-seats and colonnaded meeting places dot the estate.

There is a Russian bath-house - closed to the public on Saturday with an opposition protester's helmet on a chair across the door. On a hilltop, looking down on the Dnipro river through trees, was a plaza for a barbecue.

Families and lovers out for a different sort of Sunday afternoon excursion, posed for family album snaps at a once-in-a lifetime occasion.

Most shook their heads in wonderment at the ambitions of a president who had always proclaimed that he was on the side of the poor people of Ukraine.

'We did not expect anything like this. It is really extensive and all done with our money, the money of ordinary people. It really is too much for one person. It's very emotional when you see something like this,' said Serhiy Remezovsky, who had brought his wife and nine-month old son.

'You have the right to rule': Ex-PM Yuila Tymoshenko tells 'hero' protesters they have 'removed cancer from Ukraine' after her release from prison sentence

Ukrainian opposition icon and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko spoke to supporters at a Kiev protest camp just hours after being released from a hospital where she was incarcerated.

She arrived on stage in Kiev in a wheelchair and looked frail as she addressed thousands of demonstrators who had packed into Independence Square.

Tymoshenko, heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, is the chief rival of President Viktor Yanukovych.

His rule is crumbling after protesters took control of the capital Saturday and parliament voted to remove him from power.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses anti-government protesters on Independence Square in Kiev hours after she is released from a prison sentence

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Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko addresses anti-government protesters on Independence Square in Kiev hours after she is released from a prison sentence

Looking frail after suffering a crippling back problem for years, she said the people who had been killed in the violence were Ukraine's heroes and they now have the 'right to rule'

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Looking frail after suffering a crippling back problem for years, she said the people who had been killed in the violence were Ukraine's heroes and they now have the 'right to rule'

You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine' she said of those killed in the violence, looking tired and speaking from a wheelchair as she addressed the euphoric crowd.

She also congratulated the protestors for 'removing the cancer from Ukraine' and demanded the ousted President Yanukovych be brought to Independence Square.

'This is your victory, no politicians could do what you have done,' she said.

'This country is now free, you have given this country its freedom.

'You have removed this cancer from our country. I am convinced that any bullet shot through the heart of the people went through the heart of each Ukrainian.

The appearance brought Tymoshenko back to the square where she attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, a riveting figure then for her rhetoric, her elaborate blond peasant braid and her fashionable clothing

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The appearance brought Tymoshenko back to the square where she attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, a riveting figure then for her rhetoric, her elaborate blond peasant braid and her fashionable clothing

Upon her release, Tymoshenko promised to run for president and immediately went to Kiev's Independence Square.

'When I came to Kiev the first thing I wanted to do was come to the barricades,' she added.

'I wanted to feel the feelings that had all these boys and girls on the barricades had been through.

'All the people responsible will be brought to justice.'

The appearance brought Tymoshenko back to the square where she attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, a riveting figure then for her rhetoric, her elaborate blond peasant braid and her fashionable clothing.

The square has been the nucleus of a three-month protest movement that pushed Yanukovych to major concessions this week.

Parliament arranged the release of the current President Viktor Yanukovych's arch-rival, who has been imprisoned since 2011, but the president said he would not recognize any of the lawmakers' decisions as valid.

Her release will send shockwaves through Ukrainian politics, at a moment of deep turmoil following the worst unrest in the sprawling country since the days of the Soviet Union.

Protesters claim full control of Kiev as President Yanukovych flees the capital for his support base in the Russian-friendly east

Protesters in the Ukrainian capital claimed full control of the city Saturday following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation's three-month political crisis.

They were seen demanding the resignation of their president and attacking politicians, a move which President Victor Yanukovych branded 'a coup' and likened it to the rise of Nazis in the 1930s.

Viktor Yanukovych also says he has no intention of resigning or leaving the country. Hours after he and opposition leaders signed an agreement aimed at resolving the country's turmoil yesterday, Mr Yanukovych went to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the heartland of his support.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych winking at his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in December

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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych winking at his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in December

The ousted President looked defeated as he waited to sign the agreement aiming to end the violence which has engulfed the Ukrainian capital

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The ousted President looked defeated as he waited to sign the agreement aiming to end the violence which has engulfed the Ukrainian capital

Today, he made the coup accusation in a televised statement.

The opposition has demanded a new election be held by May 25, as the pro-Russian leader's grip on power rapidly eroded following bloodshed in the capital.

The nation's embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, reportedly had fled the capital for his support base in Ukraine's Russia-leaning east.

Ukraine's border guard service said that a leading governor and a mayor from the president's eastern base have fled to Russia.

A spokesman for the border guard service, Oleh Slobodyan, said Kharkiv regional governor Mikhaylo Dobkin and Kharkiv Mayor Hennady Kernes left Ukraine across the nearby Russian border.

Both are top allies of President Viktor Yanukovych, whose rule appeared increasingly under question after protesters took over the capital and parliament voted to remove him.

There are fears that Ukraine might split in two, creating a Russian-leaning east and Europe-leaning west.

Police abandoned posts around the capital, and protesters took up positions around the presidential office and residence.

Parliament discussed voting on impeaching Yanukovych and setting a quick date for new elections to end a crisis over Ukraine's identity and future direction.


 

Last night, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, working with opposition leaders in the months-long protest, declared a truce, hoping to begin negotiations. Within hours, each side was accusing the other of betraying the agreement, and some of the most-violent clashes to date took place, leaving dozens of protesters lying dead in Kiev's Independence Square, and hundreds more injured in nearby aid centers and hospitals. With the failure of these negotiations, and the escalating violence, fears are growing that President Yanukovych will declare a state of emergency, bringing military enforcement into the situation. The photos here are from the past 24 hours in Kiev. Also, see:Bloody Battles in Kiev, from yesterday.

A priest holds a cross and shield during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police in central Kiev, Ukraine, on February 20, 2014. Ukraine's brittle truce shattered on February 20 in fierce clashes between baton-wielding protesters and riot police that claimed dozens of lives just as EU envoys were holding crisis talks with the embattled president. Bodies of anti-government demonstrators lay amid smouldering debris after masked protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and stones forced gun-toting police from Kiev's iconic Independence Square. (Sergey Gapon/AFP/Getty Images)

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Anti-government protesters continue to clash with police in Independence square, despite a truce agreed between the Ukrainian president and opposition leaders on February 20, 2014 in Kiev. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

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This picture grabbed on AFP TV images shows government soldiers firing onto demonstrators in Kiev, on February 20, 2014.(Damien Simonart/AFP/Getty Images) #

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An anti-government protester shouts for help (right) for an injured man during clashes with riot police in the Independence Square in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #

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Protesters advance towards new positions in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Anti-government protesters carry injured men on stretchers in Independence Square in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. Ukrainian anti-government protesters on Thursday seized back control of Kiev's Independence Square, television pictures showed, after fresh clashes broke out there with riot police. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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A dead body lies on the ground after violence erupted in Independence Square in Kiev, on February 20, 2014.(Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili) #

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Activists pay respects to protesters killed in clashes with police, in Kiev's Independence Square, on February 20, 2014. Fierce clashes between police and protesters, some including gunfire, shattered a brief truce in Ukraine's besieged capital Thursday, killing numerous people. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov) #

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A satellite view of central Kiev, imaged by SkySat-1 on February 18, 2014 at 11:10 a.m. local time. Independence Square is at center-left. Black smoke can be seen at center, coming from the epicenter of rioting, near the Ukraine Government House.(© Skybox Imaging) #

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Protesters walk near a burning bus on Institutskaya Street, close to Independence Square in Kiev, on February 20, 2014.(Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Protesters catch fire as they stand behind burning barricades during clashes with police, on February 20, 2014 in Kiev.(Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images) #

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An anti-government protester stands amid burning tires to throw a Molotov cocktail toward police in Kiev's Independence Square, on February 19, 2014. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) #

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An anti-government protester sits near the bodies of two demonstrators killed by a sniper during clashes with the police in the center of Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Medics tend to a gravely wounded anti-government protester in the lobby of the Hotel Ukraine, which has been converted to a medical clinic and makeshift morgue, on February 20, 2014. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) #

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Protesters stand behind burning barricades during a face-off against police on February 20, 2014 on Independence Square in Kiev.(Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images) #

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An anti-government protester holds a firearm as he mans a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (AP Photo/ Marko Drobnjakovic) #

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Two Orthodox priests pray during a mass for the dead, after violence erupted in Independence Square, on February 20, 2014.(Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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People look at a bullet hole in victim's vest who was killed during a clash between riot police and protesters in Kiev's Independence Square, on February 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Anti-government protesters walk on a puddle of blood left by a wounded demonstrator during clashes with the police in the center of Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Anti-government protesters prepare to push forward during continued clashes with police in Independence square, on February 20, 2014. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

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Anti-government protesters carry bags filled with stones to build barricades around Independence Square, on February 20, 2014.(Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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Anti-government protesters prepare Molotov cocktails during clashes with riot police in Independence Square in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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Ukrainian Cossacks play drums on Kiev's Independence Square, calling on people to protest on February 20, 2014.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A general view of Independence square, during the face-off against heavily-armed police in Kiev, on February 20, 2014.(Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A high-ranking police officer, left, and a protester representative hold talks near the Cabinet of Ministers in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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An anti-government protester takes pictures as he stands behind burning barricades in Kiev's Independence Square, on February 19, 2014. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis) #

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A hall of the October Palace theatre, during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin) #

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A protestor stands near barricades during clashes with riot police in central Kiev, on February 20, 2014.(Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Anti-government protesters shelter behind shields during clashes with police in the center of Kiev, on February 20, 2014.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Protesters escort a "detained" policeman near Independence square in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. Hundreds of armed protesters charged police barricades Thursday on Kiev's central Independence Square, despite a truce called just hours earlier by the country's embattled president. Protesters pushed the police back about 200 metres and were in control of most of the square they had occupied at the start of Ukraine's three-month-old political crisis. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Anti-government protesters continue to clash with police in Independence square, despite a truce agreed between the Ukrainian president and opposition leaders on February 20, 2014 in Kiev. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

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A priest stands in the lobby of the hotel Ukraine near bodies of anti-government protesters killed during clashes with riot police in Kiev, on February 20, 2014. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili) #

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An anti-government protester reels barbed wire around a barricade during clashes with riot police in Kiev, on February 20, 2014.(Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin) #

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An anti-government protester aims a gun in the direction of suspected sniper fire near the Hotel Ukraine, on February 20, 2014.(Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) #

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Anti-government protesters let off fireworks during demonstrations in Independence Square late on February 19, 2014 in Kiev.(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) #

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This combination of pictures shows Independence Square in Kiev on April 22, 2009 (left) during a social movement called "Smile Ukraine! Smile overcomes a crisis!", and the same square pictured on February 20, 2014 (right), three months after a political crisis erupted leaving around dozens dead. (Sergei Supinsky, Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Flowers are laid on a Ukrainian flag covering body of a killed anti-government protester, in central Kiev, on February 20, 2014. A brief truce in Ukraine's embattled capital failed Thursday, spiraling into fierce clashes between police and anti-government protesters. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Months of protest in Ukraine -- which started in opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych's move to increase ties to Russia, but flared up recently in reaction to new strict anti-protest laws -- have resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the dismissal of his cabinet, and the repeal of most of the recent anti-protest legislation. Demonstrations spread throughout the country over the past few days, with the most intense in central Kiev, where days of pitched battles, fires, and destruction have left parts of the city in blackened ruin. This morning Kiev was peaceful once more, as all parties met to work their way out of the crisis. Gathered here are scenes from the streets of Ukraine over the past few days. Also, see earlier entry: The Battle in Kiev: Two Killed in Ukraine Protest.

Anti-government protesters gather at a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev, Ukraine, on January 25, 2014. Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has resigned amid violent protests, and most of the deeply unpopular recent anti-protest laws have been repealed. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

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A supporter of anti-government protesters wears a pot decorated with national colors and a portrait of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in the camp at Independence Square in Kiev, on January 24, 2014. Ukrainian protesters responded to laws against wearing helmets in public by donning pots and pans instead. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili) #

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Riot police stand guard opposite a roadblock of the anti-government protesters in Kiev, on January 28, 2014.(Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A riot policeman stands at his position near the site of clashes with anti-government protesters in Kiev, on January 27, 2014.(Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili) #

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Using an electric saw and ax, protesters make shields from steel drums in Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Orthodox priests pray as they stand between demonstrators and police lines in Kiev, on January 24, 2014. As a barricade of blazing tires belched thick black smoke, a line of priests stood between angry protesters and ominous riot police. Every freezing morning, priests sing prayers to demonstrators gathered on the Ukrainian capital's main square, a solemn and soothing interlude to vehement speeches calling for revolution. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Tents of anti-government protesters in Independence Square in central Kiev, on January 26, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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A protester throws a tire onto a fire during clashes with police in Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Riot police officers gather to face protestors in the center of Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Anatolii Boiko/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Black smoke rises during clashes between protesters and police in Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Ukrainian anti-government protesters walk past burning tires, on January 25, 2014. (Volodymyr Shuvayev/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A protester launches fireworks towards riot police in Kiev, on January 23, 2014. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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A protester wears a gas mask during street violence in Kiev, on January 23, 2014. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili) #

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Anti-government protesters clash with the police in Kiev during the night of January 25, 2014.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A Ukrainian protester throws a Molotov cocktail in Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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A demonstrator carries tires to the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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Protesters use a big slingshot during clashes with riot police, on January 23, 2014. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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Anti-government protesters stand on a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev, on January 24, 2014.(Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili) #

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A protester walks among burning tires at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014.(Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko) #

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Ice clings to debris as riot police block a street in front of barricades on a frosty -18 C day during a clash in central Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Police lines, viewed through the wreckage of a bus on Grushevskogo Street, on January 26, 2013. (Rob Stothard/Getty Images) #

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An anti-government protester smokes near a barricade in Kiev, on January 26, 2014. (Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin) #

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A man paints a picture of the scene as anti-government protesters clash with police on Hrushevskoho Street near Dynamo stadium in Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) #

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Ukrainian protesters carry the coffin of Belarussian protester Mikhail Zhiznevsky, who was killed in recent clashes with riot police, as demonstrators pay their respects outside Mikhaylovsky Cathedral in Kiev during a funeral service for Zhiznevsky, on January 26, 2014. Thousands in Kiev mourned Zhiznevsky, shot dead during clashes, as a rebellion against President Viktor Yanukovych's authority spread. An emotional crowd packed Saint Michael's Cathedral and spilled into a square outside to pay their last respects to 25-year-old Mikhail Zhiznevsky, with many waving Ukrainian flags with black ribbons. (Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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People light candles in front of the October Palace to commemorate protesters who were killed in confrontations with police, in Kiev, on January 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) #

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A protester using traffic sign as a shield attends clashes with police in Kiev, on January 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Protesters protect themselves from water cannons in Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Police detain protesters during a clash in central Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak) #

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A protester protects himself from water cannons in Kiev, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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A protester uses tear gas against riot police during clashes in Chernihiv, about 150 kilometers (94 miles) north of Kiev, on January 25, 2014. Protesters seized government buildings in scores of other cities in the European-leaning western part of the country.(AP Photo/Osman Karimov) #

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A Ukrainian police officer throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes with protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014.(Yuriy Kirnichny/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Anti-government protesters mass outside the regional administration headquarters as they attempt to take over during a rally, with Interior Ministry members standing guard inside the building, in the town of Chernivtsi in southwestern Ukraine, on January 24, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer) #

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Anti-government protesters clash with Interior Ministry members at the regional administration headquarters as they attempt to take over in the town of Vinnytsia, some 200 km (124 miles) southwest of Kiev, on January 25, 2014. Thousands stormed regional administration headquarters in Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmelnytsky in western and central Ukraine, as well as parts of the northeast, the Party of the Regions said. (Reuters/Stringer) #

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Protesters stand guard inside the Justice Ministry in Kiev, on January 27, 2014. Ukraine's justice minister threatened to call for a state of emergency unless protesters left the ministry building, which they occupied during the night. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Protesters guard the barricade in front of riot police in Kiev, on January 28, 2014. The prime minister of protest-torn Ukraine submitted his resignation on Tuesday, saying he hoped the move would help bring peaceful resolution to the crisis that has gripped the country for two months. Mykola Azarov's resignation would remove one of the figures most despised by the opposition. It came as the parliament opened a special session that repealed most of the harsh anti-protest laws that were imposed this month.(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) #

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Ukrainian opposition leader and former WBC heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko (center) smiles as he talks to lawmakers in the parliament session hall, in Kiev, on January 28, 2014. In back-to-back moves to try resolving Ukraine's political crisis, the prime minister submitted his resignation Tuesday and parliament repealed anti-protest laws that had set off violent clashes between protesters and police. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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A pile of gas masks are made available to anti-government protestors inside the occupied Ukrainian House convention center on January 28, 2014. (Rob Stothard/Getty Images) #

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Photo taken on January 28, 2014 shows an anti-government protester's shield and baton near a road block in Kiev. Ukrainian lawmakers scrapped draconian anti-protest laws that have angered the opposition, in a move aimed at bringing a deadly two-month standoff to an end. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

The Battle in Kiev: Two Killed in Ukraine Protest

 

Anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine took a deadly turn yesterday, with at least two protesters killed by gunshots. Government forces appear to be doubling down on recently passed anti-protest legislation -- increasing the level of response, even sending ominous area-wide text messages to protesters informing them, "You are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance." The pro-European demonstrators also increased their attacks on riot police in Kiev, bringing in a homemade trebuchet, fireworks, and crates full of Molotov cocktails.

 

A demonstrator throws a stone during clashes between protestors and police in the center of Kiev on January 22, 2014. At least two activists were shot dead today as Ukrainian police stormed protesters' barricades in Kiev, the first fatalities in two months of anti-government protests. Pitched battles raged in the center of the Ukrainian capital as protesters hurled stones at police and the security forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

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Ukranian riot police stand behind the wreckage of burned vehicles during clashes with pro-European protesters in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Protesters fire at police with fireworks, in central Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Pro-European integration protesters build a trebuchet to throw stones during clashes with police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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Protesters use fireworks during clashes with police in central Kiev, on January 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman) #

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Fireworks explode during clashes between police and protesters in central Kiev, on January 20, 2014.(Anatoliy Sepanov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A Ukrainian priest passes by a rank of riot police in the center of Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Riot police officers take cover behind shields during clashes with pro-European protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014.(Reuters/Maks Levin) #

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Reporters take pictures during clashes between protesters and police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Pro-European protesters stand in line holding wooden sticks in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Helmeted riot police move in on hundreds of protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman) #

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Pro-European protesters clash with riot policemen in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Police officers drag a protester during clashes in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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A protester attacks police in central Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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A police officer detains a protester during clashes in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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An injured man, during clashes between pro-European protesters and riot police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. The sign on the helmet reads: "Press". (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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A woman addresses Ukrainian Interior Ministry members who lined up during clashes with pro-European protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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Ukrainian opposition activists prepare Molotov cocktails for clashes with riot police in central Kiev, on January 21, 2014.(Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A man carries a burning tire during a rally held by pro-European protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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A protester throws a Molotov cocktail toward police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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A police officer uses a shotgun during clashes with protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman) #

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A protester, left, waits for a moment to clash with riot police officers in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov) #

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The body of an unidentified man lies in a building near the street where clashes took place in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. Two people have died in clashes between protesters and police in the Ukrainian capital Wednesday, according to medics on the site, in a development that will likely escalate Ukraine's two month-long political crisis. (AP Photo/Yuras Karmanau) #

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A demonstrator throws an incendiary device as protesters clash with police in the center of Kiev, on January 22, 2014.(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Riot police officers dodge stones and firebombs during clashes with pro-European protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014.(Reuters/Maks Levin) #

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Protesters react as one catches fire during a clash with police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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Medics transport an injured protester during protests in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) #

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A protester points a handgun during a battle with police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Protesters aim fireworks at riot police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Protestors burn tires as they clash with police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A protester sprays fire in the direction of the riot police in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #

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A police officer throws a Molotov cocktail toward protesters during clashes in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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A pro-European protester lies on the ground during a battle with riot police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) #

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A protester prepares to throw a Molotov cocktail at police in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman) #

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A pro-European integration protester catches fire during clashes in Kiev, on January 20, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko) #

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An Orthodox priest prays as he stands between pro-European Union activists and police lines during violent demonstrations in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) #

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Tires burn as police advance on protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) #

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A police officer runs away from protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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Police prepare to clash with protesters in central Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #

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Protesters confront riot police in central Kiev, early Wednesday, January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman) #

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Tires burn in the street, set alight by protesters in Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits) #

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A demonstrator stands amid burning tires and debris in the center of Kiev, on January 22, 2014. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

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