Riot police storm protest camp in Kyiv as clashes turn deadly

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Unrest started last year when Yanukovich spurned a free trade agreement with the EU in favour of a deal with Russia [AP]
Police are storming the main protest camp in Ukraine\’s capital, Kiev, which has been occupied since November.
Explosions are taking place, fireworks are being thrown and large fires have broken out in Independence Square, known locally as the Maidan.
On Tuesday at least 20 people were killed, including seven policemen, in the worst violence seen in weeks.
Police and opposition representatives said many of the dead were killed by gunshots and hundreds more injured, with dozens in serious condition.
Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitschko urged the pro-Western demonstrators occupying Kyiv\’s Independence Square – also known as Maidan – to defend their positions. He warned women and children to leave the area.
Later, Klitschko met with President Viktor Yanukovych for talks, but the meeting failed to produce a breakthrough. Klitschko said the president demanded protesters "stop the standoff" and unconditionally clear the square.
He told the Ukrainska Pravda website that he brings "nothing good from the talks."
Yanukovych\’s advisers told reporters the president will address the nation after meeting with the opposition on Wednesday. The exact time for the address has not been announced.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden phoned Yanukovych late Tuesday to express "grave concern" about the violence, calling on the Ukrainian president to pull back security forces and to exercise maximum restraint. 
Biden told Yanukovych his government bears "special responsibility" to resolve the crisis.
The estimated 20,000 demonstrators fought back, armed with rocks, bats and fire bombs, and singing the Ukrainian national anthem as the main protest camp was engulfed in flames. The building of Trade Unions that served as a base for the protesters for the past two months also caught fire. Emergency crews have been trying to put out a fire for hours and evacuated four trapped women.
Anti-government protests have been building for weeks, with activists calling for anukovych\’s ouster after he backed away from a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Protesters, some armed with clubs and wearing helmets and body armor, attempted to stand their ground in central Kyiv, hurling firebombs and stones at police as plumes of smoke billowed from burning tents and piles of tires and wood.
Security forces have been steadily gaining ground in the square, where thousands of protesters still remained, hearing speeches from their leaders and singing the national anthem.
Police confirmed the unrest has spread outside Kyiv to a number of regions in western Ukraine that support closer ties to the European Union. In Lyiv, anti-government demonstrators seized the regional administration building and police headquarters. 
In Moscow, authorities blamed the violence on Western governments, accusing them of encouraging "radical forces" among the protesters.
Russia said Monday it would release an additional $2 billion to Ukraine to support its moribund economy, a move seen as strengthening President Yanukovych\’s bid to remain in power. The money is part of a $15 billion loan promised by Russia. 
European Union and U.S. officials have repeatedly said they are working with the International Monetary Fund on details of an aid package that analysts have described as rivaling or exceeding the Russian bailout deal. No concrete offers have been made public.
Source: Agencies

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