CNNs Ian Lee shares Ukraines response to the Russian-approved use of military force there.KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian riot police charged protesters occupying a central Kiev square early on Wednesday after the bloodiest day since the former Soviet republic, caught in a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, won its independence.
Police battled their way into Independence Square, center of three months of protests against President Viktor Yanukovich, but demonstrators, some armed with clubs and wearing helmets and body armor, tried to stand their ground.
Smoke billowed from burning tents and piles of tyres and wood as thousands of protesters held on to the center of the square, a Reuters cameraman said. Several floors of a trade union building, used as an anti-government headquarters, were on fire.
At least 14 protesters and seven policemen were killed during violence that erupted in Kiev on Tuesday and continued into the early hours of Wednesday. Many were killed by gunshot and hundreds more injured, with dozens of them in a serious condition, police and opposition representatives said.
Alarmed Western governments demanded restraint and dialogue. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Yanukovich, urging him to pull back the government forces and exercise maximum restraint, the White House said.
Renewed clashes in Ukraine spark worst street viol … Play video
Renewed clashes in Ukraine spark worst street violencenbsphellip
Earlier, the state security service set a deadline for the demonstrators to end disorder or face tough measures. Then the police advanced up to the square before launching a full assault in the early hours, throwing stun grenades.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted in November after Yanukovich bowed to Russian pressure and pulled out of a planned far-reaching trade agreement with the European Union, deciding instead to accept a Kremlin bailout for the heavily indebted economy.
Western powers warned Yanukovich against trying to smash the pro-European demonstrations, urging him to turn back to the EU and the prospect of an IMF-supported economic recovery, while Russia accused them of meddling.
Ukraine has been rocked periodically by political turmoil since gaining independence from the Soviet Union more than 22 years ago, but it had never experienced violence on this scale.
As the security forces moved forward, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko reacted defiantly, telling supporters on the square: We will not leave here. This is an island of freedom. We will defend it.
Scores of Ukrainians injured in worst street battl … Play video
Scores of Ukrainians injured in worst street battlesnbsphellip
The world champion boxer-turned politician later arrived at Yanukovichs office for talks, Klitschkos spokeswoman said, but he and another opposition leader, former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, were still waiting to see the president an hour later.
Earlier on Tuesday the State Security Service (SBU), in a joint statement with the Interior Ministry, signaled the governments intentions. If by 6 p.m. the disturbances have not ended, we will be obliged to restore order by all means envisaged by law, they said.
The riot police moved in hours after Moscow gave Ukraine 2 billion in aid for its crippled economy which it had been holding back to demand decisive action to crush the protests.
Local media reported that anti-government protesters had torched a police station and seized a prosecutors office in the western city of Ternopil.