Violence between Ukraine's opposition (known as Euromaidan) and the government's SWAT-style police force (Berkut), has boiled over today. Fires are raging across protesters' tent-towns and police stations in what is being described as "open warfare." Estimates indicate that over 20 people are dead and over 1,000 are injured. The BBC reports that officers are using rubber bullets and stun grenades, while The Daily Beast says machine guns are their weapon of choice. Protesters are armed with an array of weapons, from bricks and molotov cocktails to firearms of their own.
Parliamentary member Lesya Orobets writes:
The war is here. A real fierce war. It is impossible to grasp this emotionally, although the mind is working precisely and quickly quite apart from emotions. We are being exterminated because of our desire to have dignity and decide our lives independently. This simply makes no sense. My fellow Ukrainians are being killed by the creatures that not only resemble us biologically, but also carry Ukrainian passports.
Russian news website Slon.ru explains that mayhem was sparked because police blocked opposition members and their representatives from entering Ukraine's parliamentary building, where they planned on introducing constitutional reforms to limit the authority of President Yanukovych, who has been consolidating power.
The Kyiv Post has a comprehensive timeline of events. Here are some highlights:
Feb. 18, 8 p.m. — Acting Security Services of Ukraine head Oleksandr Yakymenko and acting Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko issued a public warning at 4 p.m. to protesters to clear the streets within two hours: "If by 6 p.m. the lawlessness doesn't cease, we shall be forced to used all legal means to bring order."
Police continued to amass in the evening… Protesters tore up paving stones on Khreshchatyk Street, stood guard at barricades and stockpiled Molotov cocktails as if bracing for an attack by police overnight.
Feb. 18, 8:55 p.m. — Police had encircled Kyiv's Independence Square. Tent cities housing
protesters were on fire. Officers had deployed a water cannon and an armored personnel carrier. But a protester on the main square said that police had not penetrated the barricaded perimeter and were merely encircling the protesters there.
Feb. 18, 9:28 p.m. — Channel 5 is reporting that President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk are meeting tonight in a bid to end the violence
Shortly after midnight, one politician asserted, "I am confident that today Maidan will be stripped."
Feb. 18, 10:18 p.m. — There are unconfirmed reports of 300-500 "titushki"—government-hired thugs—walking on Volodymyrska Street towards Sofiyivska Square
Feb. 18, 10:22 p.m. — Several news media outlets report that protesters in western Ukraine have taken over police headquarters in two oblasts, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk, and are trying to storm the headquarters in Ternopil Oblast.
Feb. 18, 11:30 p.m. — About 20,000 people remain on Kyiv's Independence Square late on Feb. 18. A lot of the square is on fire from burning tires and debris.
So far, no resolution has been reached between Yanukovych and opposition leaders. Whether or not they even met is still unclear.
Read Reason's previous coverage of the Ukrainian revolution here.