KIEV, Ukraine – Promised talks aimed at resolving two months of unrest failed to materialize Monday as anti-government protesters clashed with riot police in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, for a second day, with more than 200 people reported injured.
The violence follows weeks of largely peaceful demonstrations against President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision not to sign a free-trade and association deal with the European Union, choosing instead to pursue closer ties with Russia.
At least 61 police officers and 42 protesters have been hospitalized since Sunday, officials said. The injured also include at least 15 journalists, reports said.
Central Kiev’s Grushevsky Street, which leads to the government complex that houses parliament and the Council of Ministers, looked like a scene from an apocalypse movie Monday morning, with charred carcasses of several police buses still smoldering under layers of glistening ice.
Masked and helmeted protesters, some of them wearing gas masks, took cover behind the destroyed vehicles and threw bricks, cobblestones, flares and Molotov cocktails at lines of riot police protecting themselves with shields about 50 yards away.
When the attackers, who numbered in the hundreds, would temporarily retreat, police would pick up some of the stones and Molotov cocktails and toss them back at the protesters while firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
The pattern was repeated, with little variation, throughout the day as several thousand bystanders looked on and the casualties mounted. Three of those taken to hospital had to have their eyes removed and one had a hand amputated, Kiev health authorities said Monday.
The security presence grew throughout the day as reinforcements arrived from other cities and towns.
Andriy Parubiy, who heads an opposition self-defense force that is protecting a tent camp in Independence Square, said there were more than 20,000 police and Interior Ministry troops in Kiev, double his previous estimate.
The clashes erupted Sunday as tens of thousands of opposition demonstrators took to the streets in response to new security measures aimed at curbing protests.
The controversial measures, which Yanukovich signed into law Friday, prohibit the erection of tents, stages, sound equipment and other objects that can hinder movement in public areas.