Ukraine has lurched deeper into chaos after dozens of protesters were shot dead in Kiev, prompting the European Union to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on officials close to President Viktor Yanukovich.
Demonstrators and riot police blamed each other for breaking a brief truce yesterday morning as fighting resumed near Independence Square, and the protesters’ makeshift medical points were soon overwhelmed by the wounded.
Reporters counted more than 40 dead, while activist doctor Oleh Musiy said at least 70 people had been killed and hundreds injured.
The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland met top officials and opposition leaders yesterday and plan to continue talks in Kiev today.
Mr Yanukovich has sought greater support from Russia to counter pressure from the West, and the Kremlin is sending an envoy to Kiev to help defuse a crisis that has triggered warnings of possible civil war and a split in Ukraine. “This is criminal, anti-human. No one believed they would ever see this in Ukraine – and no one will ever forget it,” said doctor Olga Bogomolets at a field hospital in the lobby of a hotel next to Independence Square.
“I have 12 dead here, all shot in the head and chest by professionals, I would say. They had no chance.”
In the grounds of golden-domed St Michael’s Cathedral, 13 more men lay in a row under blankets, only their feet protruding, workers boots resting against muddy sports shoes. “They were killed by sniper fire, for sure,” said a medic who was trying to put names to the bodies stretched out on the wet grass.
One man stood alone to one side and stared silently at the bodies, occasionally raising a gloved hand to rub disbelief and exhaustion from his face.
Other protesters came in twos and threes, clutching mobile phones that no longer raised the voice of a comrade. One stood over the lumpy blankets and dialled. After a moment a muffled tune played. He ended the call and a medic pulled back the blankets. The man nodded and turned away.
A few minutes later, two men from the western town of Rivne came rushing up, and asked the medic to uncover another corpse.
“He’s Georgi Arutyunov, from our town,” said one of the men, who gave his name as Andriy. “He was near the front on Instytutska Street this morning…I called and called his phone but got no reply,” said Andriy, his voice tailing off. “The riot police attacked us first at the barricades on Instytutska,” said his friend Ihor Marchuk, taking up the story. “They threw stun grenades at us and, when we scattered, snipers picked us off.”
Others told a similar story as they identified their dead. They wrote the names, ages and hometowns of the men on small pieces of cardboard ripped from a box of medical supplies, and placed them on their bodies. Most were young men from western Ukraine, the opposition heartland.