The anti-government protest movement in Ukraine said Wednesday that two people have died following clashes with police in a development that could fuel more popular anger and political tensions.
Segodnya.ua news website cited staff with the Euromaidan protest movement as saying a 22-year-old activist died after plummeting down the 13-meter-high colonnade of a Kiev stadium.
The victim, whose name was withheld, was pelting Berkut riot police with fireworks and Molotov cocktails at the time, the report said.
Segodnya.ua reported that the man fell after Berkut officers climbed up the colonnade to chase him and fellow demonstrators away.
Another man was shot dead Wednesday on Ulitsa Grushevskogo, a street near the Cabinet office and parliament on which clashes have taken place in recent days, Espreso.tv reported, also citing Euromaidan activists.
The casualty's identity and the circumstances of his death were not immediately unclear.
At a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said that Ukrainian law enforcement could not have been responsible for the reported shooting on the basis that riot police deployed to the area had not been issued with firearms. He did order an inquiry into the death, however.
He went on to describe the protesters in Kiev “criminals” who must “answer for their actions,” Interfax reported.
Police attempted again to disperse protesters early Wednesday, shooting and pelting them with stun grenades, but were beaten back, the Euromaidan protest group said on Twitter.
Ukrainian media reported Tuesday that authorities planned to deploy almost 10,000 troops to clear rioters from Ulitsa Grushevskogo and possibly also the more pacific proceedings at nearby Independence Square, the site of a months-long peaceful protest.
Meanwhile, a pro-government lawmaker warned of possible renewed attacks by radical nationalists against police on Wednesday, which is a national holiday in Ukraine.
Ultranationalist groups began attacking police in Kiev on Sunday in protest at a spate of draconian laws severely curtailing the rights to protest that were hastily pushed through parliament by President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.
Violence was heavy on both sides, with Molotov cocktails, stun grenades and rubber bullets used indiscriminately.
Police reported more than 100 officers sustaining injuries, while the opposition spoke about 1,000 activists being hurt in the disturbances. Three demonstrators reportedly lost an eye and one is said have had a hand amputated.
Protests have been raging in Ukraine since November, when Yanukovych made an 11th-hour decision to pull out of an association agreement with the EU, opting instead for closer ties with Russia.
Material from The Moscow Times is included in this report.