Ukraine Violence Leaves at Least 25 Dead

PHOTO: Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kievs Independence Square, the epicenter of the countrys current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Feb. 18, 2014.
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At least 25 people were killed and hundreds injured as thousands of riot police clashed with anti-government protesters in Ukraine - fighting against the backdrop of flaming tires and Molotov cocktails in what has become the deadliest violence in three months of demonstrations in the center of Kiev.

Protesters fought back against police who tried to dismantle barricades on the square's perimeter - rolling tires into flames to fuel a wall of fire that prevented police from advancing. A building used by the protesters caught fire.

Earlier in the day, clashes broke out as crowds tried to march toward parliament. Young men wearing ski masks and helmets attacked the police with sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails, according to local news reports.

The Ukrainian Protests in Riveting Pictures

As evening fell, protest leaders called on followers to rush to Independence Square, but, anticipating violence, urged women and children to leave. According to the Russian news agency Interfax, some 20,000 people remained in the square as the deadline passed. The protesters lit up the sky by launching fireworks at the police lines. The cops returned with a barrage of water cannons.

Embattled President Viktor Yanukovich has pledged to meet with opposition leaders on Wednesday morning, according to Interfax.

The clashes came as opposition lawmakers tried to change the constitution to limit President Viktor Yanukovich's powers. Lawmakers said those efforts were stymied.

The protests erupted in late November after the Ukrainian president backed away from a plan to strike a trade deal with the European Union. Instead, he bowed to Russian pressure and pledged to join a Russia-led customs union. Moscow also offered Ukraine billions of dollars in badly needed loans as the country faces default.

Most of the protesters come from Ukraine's western half, while Yanukovich's Russian-speaking base in the industrial eastern half have largely remained loyal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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