Ukraine: Truce Crumbles, Dozens Dead, Cities Reject Federal Rule


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Ukraine continues to grow more unstable. Violence resumed less than a day after an attempted truce between President Viktor Yanukovych and the representatives of the pro-western Euromaidan opposition was declared, and a growing number of government officials are rejecting the president's authority. Intermittent fighting since Tuesday morning has marked the deadliest stretch in the nation's revolution, which began in November.

Twenty-six people were reported dead and 1,000 injured after Tuesday's battles began between civilians and the federal government's riot police and internal troops. The body count has since climbed to over 50. One medic claims that the number is closer to 70.

Yanukovych charges that blame rests solely on the protesters, who are "using firearms, including sniper rifles. They are shooting to kill." The Interior Ministry states that the opposition has captured 67 riot police.

At the same time, Acting Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko openly acknowledges that "law enforcement officials have been provided with combat weapons," only a day after the ministry denied using firearms.

A Belarusian news channel aired footage of government snipers shooting at opposition forces even as they tended to injured individuals. International Business Times describes the event as a "massacre" and reports that the attack took place only hours after the president promised the truce.

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Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda writes that in another case, "peaceful people" standing in the street taking a photograph were hit with sniper fire, and one man died after taking a bullet to the throat.

Russian news site Slon.ru reports on a similar situation in which a nurse was hit in the neck, but survived.

Government officials and even some law enforcement are becoming openly opposed to Yanukovych's course of action.

In the western province of Lviv, the regional government declared that because "the [Yanukovych] regime has begun active military action against people," it no longer has authority. Instead, "the lawfully elected local councils and the executive committees created by them remain the legitimate authorities," and that "the majority of the district police departments have already announced their decision to take the side of the people of Ukraine and report to the executive committee of the Lviv region's council."

Even the Kiev City Administrator, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced his "decision to quit the ranks of the [Yanukovych's] Party of Regions, and take personal responsibility for the vital activity of Kiev."

A State Department official told Radio Free Europe that it had placed sanctions on 20 unnamed Ukrainians, barring them from entering the U.S. The European Union also introduced sanctions, both travel-related and economic. The latter "will affect those businesses who still support the regime that violates human rights," according to Ukrainska Pravda. Some members of the president's administration and party, including the prime minister, have already fled the country. 

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