Wednesday saw the first fatalities of the two-month-old protests in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, when at least two men were shot and killed by police, and a third reportedly fell to his death as he clashed with security forces. On Jan. 19, after the signing of a new law that restricted the right to assemble and criminalized wearing helmets and masks, the demonstrations, which had been mostly peaceful since some 200,000 had poured into the streets to protest the abandonment of a trade agreement with the European Union, devolved into bitter violence. Though the crowds had dwindled through weeks of bitter cold since December, the new law, and a separate, later authorization of the use of deadly force -- brought as many as 100,000 back to the streets, blocking roads and attempting to shut down government buildings near Independence Square. Many attendees received texts saying, "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance," alerting them that the government was tracking their locations through their phones. Riot police, trailed by firefighting crews, fired stun grenades, water cannons, and rubber bullets as they were assailed by petrol bombs and paving stones -- even a crude catapult -- hurled from behind burned-out police vans, and reports of pro-government provocateurs incited fury and claims of sabotage amongst protestors. One hundred-ninety-five police officers had been injured according to the Interior Ministry, 84 to the point of hospitalization, since the violence began over the weekend, and 36 journalists have been wounded covering the unrest.
President Viktor Yanukovych met with members of the three leading opposition factions on Wednesday, in an attempt to find a peaceful resolution, but to no avail. "When we talked about canceling the new laws that make each of us here a criminal, we heard that maybe this can be a point of negotiations," said Vitali Klitschko, former boxer and leader of the UDAR party, speaking to a crowd after the meeting had adjourned. "I will be with the people. If I have to fight, I will fight. If I have to go under bullets, I will. I will stand up for the people, because I want to live in a different country." He continued: "If tomorrow the President does not make a step forward, we will attack."
Above, protesters clash with riot police in Kiev on Jan. 22.
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