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Monday, October 24, 2016

By Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times

KIEV, Ukraine — At least 20 protesters were killed Thursday morning as gunfire rang out in central Kiev, breaking the shaky truce reached between President Victor Yanukovich and opposition leaders the previous night.

Oleh Musiy, chief of the protest camp health service, told the Los Angeles Times that dozens were injured.

Police reported that one officer died in a hospital of a gunshot wound.

Early in the afternoon, about 200 riot police, many with shotguns, were deployed in the Council of Ministers building in Grushevsky Street.

Not far away, in front of the parliament building, a police officer was instructing his squad armed with shields and clubs: “Remember, the more organized fashion you retreat in, the more chances for you to stay alive.”

In the meantime, protesters were busy building and fortifying new barricades a few hundred yards down the street.

The morning clashes began when police used stun grenades to attack the protest encampment in Independence Square. Protesters opened fire, forcing police to retreat, carrying their wounded to nearby buses.

One policeman was kneeling near another lying on the ground in central Khreshchatik Street. After a quick examination, he shouted: “Damn, another shotgun wound!”

Shots were fired and bullets were whistling all across the stretch between Independence Square and Europe Square nearby. At least 25 policemen were injured, 14 with shotgun wounds, said an officer who did not want to be named. He added that two officers are in critical condition.

As police ran for their buses to drive away with the injured, several dozen officers stayed behind to cover the retreat.

Then several hundred masked protesters with shields, clubs and Molotov cocktails charged police. A hand fight with shields and clubs ensued in Europe Square. Soon the protesters prevailed and police were in full retreat, some surrounded by club-wielding protesters, pushed to the ground, clubbed and kicked on all sides.

One police officer was shooting at protesters with a handgun but it jammed, so he turned around and fled. At least one protester also armed with a handgun was shooting at the retreating police. Some protesters were continuing to beat up police officers lying on the ground, some were pushing their colleagues away and trying to help injured officers.