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New clashes erupt in Ukraine as health ministry raises death toll

New clashes erupt in Ukraine as health ministry raises death toll

PanARMENIAN.Net - Ukrainian protesters hurling petrol bombs and paving stones drove riot police from the central square in Kyiv on Thursday, Feb 20, despite a "truce" which embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said he had agreed with opposition leaders, according to Reuters.

Afterward, Reuters said, its photographer saw 10 dead in civilian clothing in two places on Independence Square, known as Maidan, where pro-European demonstrators have been encamped for three months. Television also showed activists in combat fatigues leading away several uniformed policemen they had captured.

The crowd had surged forward to recapture a corner of the square, closest to the presidency and parliament, which riot police had occupied late on Tuesday. Since then, 28 people, including 10 policemen, have been killed in the worst violence since Ukraine became independent of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Both sides have accused the other of using live ammunition.

The flare-up, just as three European foreign ministers arrived in Kyiv for talks with Yanukovich to try to promote a political compromise, broke a tense stand-off in the city center, now alive with wailing police and ambulance sirens.

Parliament was evacuated, local media said, and it was unclear how the violence would affect the plans of the EU delegation of ministers from Germany, France and Poland.

The crisis in the sprawling country of 46 million with an ailing economy and endemic corruption has mounted since Yanukovich pulled out of a planned far-reaching trade agreement with the EU in November under fierce pressure from Moscow and agreed to take a $15-billion Russian bailout instead.

The United States stepped up pressure on Wednesday by imposing travel bans on 20 senior Ukrainian officials, and European Union foreign ministers are due to meet in Brussels later on Thursday to consider similar measures.

A statement on Yanukovich's website announced an accord late on Wednesday with opposition leaders for "the start to negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed, and stabilizing the situation in the state in the interest of social peace".

Protesters were in a truculent mood despite the overnight lull and columns of men, bearing clubs and chanting patriotic songs headed to Independence Square at 8:30 am.

The health ministry revised upwards the death toll in Tuesday's violence to 28 as of 6 am on Thursday - three hours before the latest violence.

According to the lastest data, the number of the killed reached 35.

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