Deaths On The Maidan

Deaths on Ukraine's Maidan Signal Escalation Of Violence

As clashes between Ukrainian police and protesters escalate, both sides are resorting to brutal acts of violence, from firebombs to snipers.

Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Ukraine mourned grave news coming from the burning, revolutionary streets of Kiev this week. On Wednesday night, doctors extracted bullets out of two young men’s bodies. They had been killed on Hrushevskovo street, a place of a four-day-long bloody battle. One body had been pierced by bullets from a Makarov pistol and the other supposedly from a sniper rifle, a Diagterev gun, according to Espreso TV.

PHOTOS: Kiev's Deadly Protests

Ukrainian new Web sites posted frightening footage of riot police publically humiliating an activist who had been stripped naked earlier today. On the video, a group of police officials surrounded the naked protester, who stood in the snowy street; officials yelled and forced a stick into the protesters hands, to take a picture of the man.

Kiev heaved with concern about the post-chaos future, but protesters were not ready to give up the Maidan, the square that they had defended for two months. Social media forums discussed the possibility of the Russian army rolling in to stop the unrest this week, the way the army did in Georgia during the Olympics in China. Some bloggers suggested that it was a Russian-hired sniper who killed the protester. But a Parliament deputy of the ruling Party of Regions, Yevgeny Balitsky, claimed that the sniper was recruited by the West: “We cannot exclude that we are talking here of a professional recruited in one of the NATO countries, who was brought here on an order from the opposition’s radical wing,” a local newspaper, quoted the deputy on Thursday.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concerns about Ukraine “getting out of control”; the minister said he was “convinced” that foreign countries were destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.

"Members of several European governments rushed to the Maidan without any invitation and took part in anti-government demonstrations," Mr Lavrov said, complaining about foreign interference in Ukraine’s domestic politics.

Meanwhile, the toll of the injured kept climbing. The police and opposition counted over 200 wounded on both sides. Clashes between a few hundred protesters—armed with self-made bombs, sticks and cobblestones—and thousands of Berkut special battalions continued for four days and four nights this week. Shocking beatings took place on Monday: Berkut special forces detained two construction workers, undressed them and shot rubber bullets all over the two men’s naked bodies. After that, officials let the injured men walk naked across “the front line,” where protesters helped the victims with first aid.

In reaction to the Berkut forces' rubber bullets and water cannons, protesters set police on fire with Molotov cocktails and bombed them with cobblestones. The Maidan proclaimed a parallel state, and denounced the government of President Victor Yanukovych. Ukrainian volunteers and civil society mobilized, taking injured protesters to private clinics, as state hospitals became dangerous; several injured protesters had been detained from their hospital beds.

All Wednesday, protesters stood on the freezing cold Maidan under snow, expecting a crackdown any moment. “Please stay, if we are less than 5,000 people here, there will be an attack on the Maidan,” saidInna Bogoslovskaya, a former Party of Regions deputy and one-time Yanukovych supporter turned opposition activist. “The Maidan is our fortress,” Bogoslovskaya said.