The protests that have raged in the Ukraine for more than two months escalated Tuesday as nine people, including two police officers, reportedly died when the opposition and riot officers faced off in Independence Square, the tent city thousands have occupied since the beginning days of the anti-government movement.
Protesters reportedly set fire to barricades, piles of trash and old tires and rubbish in an attempt to hold back the authorities, who earlier broke through the barrier in an attempt to reclaim the square from the dissenters.
The New York Times reported that the death toll was likely to rise as the intensity of the fighting remained at a fevered pitch.
The demonstrations were sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision in November to spur a European Union trade pact for closer ties with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.
Yanukovych recently authorized the release of all protesters involved in the movement, but the concessions made by the government did little to quell the unrest.
“I don’t want to wage war,” Yanukovych was quoted as saying. “I want to safeguard the state and resume a stable development. We are asking the opposition to also make concessions.”