Anti-government protesters and police engaged in violent street battles in Ukraine’s capital Tuesday that left hundreds injured and reportedly at least three demonstrators dead.
Fighting escalated in Kiev as a standoff played out inside the parliament, where deputies faced off over changes to the constitution that the opposition has said could be a way out of the political paralysis gripping the country.
Thousands of radical demonstrators – many of them wielding shields and sticks and wearing masks – moving toward the parliament building around midday were confronted by police, who deployed rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas. Pictures from the front lines showed people among the rioters ripping up cobblestones to hurl at riot police.
Lesya Orobets, a deputy with the opposition Batkivshchyna party, said on her Facebook page that at least three protesters had been killed. Radio Free Europe cited opposition medic Olga Bogomolets as also saying, from a first aid point in the Officers House, a building near parliament, that three people had been killed and seven were in a serious condition.
Authorities had not confirmed those deaths by early evening.
The Interior Ministry said one person was killed at the offices of the ruling Party of Regions headquarters, which was stormed by demonstrators Tuesday. Police said they were investigating the cause of death, RIA Novosti reports.
Officials said that as of early Tuesday evening, 37 police officers had been injured in the unrest, five of them wounded by firearms used by protesters.
Earlier in the day inside parliament, opposition deputies had blocked the speaker’s rostrum in protest at pro-government deputies’ refusal to register a draft bill introducing reform to the constitution.
Opposition forces are seeking the restoration of the 2004 constitution, which they say would ensure a way out of the political crisis by transferring more powers to the parliament from the president.