Update — Feb. 20, 1:45 a.m. ET: Death toll rises to 28.
Ukraine's Health Ministry said Thursday 28 people have died and 287 others have been hospitalized during two days of intense street clashes between police and protesters in Kiev.
According to a statement on the ministry's website, 88 police officers, six journalists and four foreigners were among those hospitalized. But opposition activists told the AP the number is actually much higher.
Update — Feb. 19, 4:25 p.m. ET:
Apart from declaring a "truce," the president and the opposition leaders also agreed on "negotiations" to end "bloodshed" and to stabilize the crisis in the country "for the sake of civil peace," according to the presidential website.
Update — Feb. 19. 2:40 p.m. ET: “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”
After President Obama arrived in Mexico Wednesday for an economic summit, he gave a brief statement about the violence in Ukraine.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the violence that's taking place. And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to ensure that that violence ends. But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protestors in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression. And I want to be very clear as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that we're going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protestors. We've also said we expect peaceful protestors to remain peaceful and we'll be monitoring very closely the situation, recognizing that with our European partners and the international community there will be consequences if people step over the line. And that includes making sure the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians. So the United States will continue to engage with all sides in the dispute in Ukraine and ultimately our interest is to make sure the Ukrainian people can express their own desires and we believe a large majority of Ukrainians are interested in an integration with Europe and the commerce and cultural exchanges that are possible for them to expand opportunity and prosperity. But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future it is important the people themselves make those decisions and that's what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.
Watch a live stream from Independence Square:
Update — Feb. 19, 1:15 p.m. ET:
Update — Feb. 19, 1:15 p.m. ET: Ukraine's top security agency announced a nationwide anti-terrorist operation after accusing protestors of seizing hundreds of firearms from its offices, the Associated Press reported.
Update — Feb. 19, 12:03 p.m. ET: U.S. and European Union threaten sanctions.
European Union leaders condemned what they called "the unjustified use of excessive force by the Ukrainian authorities" and said they were urgently preparing targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown, Reuters reported.
Secretary of State John Kerry said in Paris that sanctions were being considered, and senior administration officials told CNN that a final decision could come later in the day.
Update — Feb. 19, 1:30 a.m. ET: Death toll hits 25.
Ukraine's Health Ministry said early Wednesday the number of dead from clashes between anti-government protesters and police has risen to 25, including nine police officers and a journalist. Two hundred and forty-one others had been hospitalized.
Update — Feb. 18, 11:30 p.m. ET: Ukraine's president issues new statement, says protesters should distance themselves from "radical forces."
Update — Feb. 18, 10:55 p.m. ET: Ukraine opposition leader says protesters won't surrender.
"Yanukovych suggested we actually surrender," Arseniy Yatsenyuk tweeted. "But people have a right to stand on the Square, and we will stand with the people."
Riot police renewed their assault shortly after 4 a.m. local time Wednesday, BBC News reported. A number of protesters' tents were set on fire and officers reportedly began using a water cannon again.
A correspondent for Kiev newspaper Vesti reportedly was killed in the violence.
Update — Feb. 18, 9:25 p.m. ET: The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is seen directing traffic amid the chaos in Kiev.
Update — Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET: Death toll rises to 22.
Ukraine's Interior Ministry reported on its website two more police officers have been killed in the violence, raising the death toll to 22, according to the Kyiv Post.
Meanwhile, unrest spread outside the capital of Kiev to western Ukraine, with protesters attacking police and local government offices in a number of regions, CNN reported.
Update — Feb. 18, 7:37 p.m. ET: Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told Hromadske TV that talks with Yanukovych were unsuccessful.
According to Klitschko, the president blamed the opposition for escalating the conflict.
Klitschko said that opposition leaders listened for more than an hour to Yanukovych's accusations that they were to blame for the 20 deaths.
The president also demanded that the opposition order the protesters to leave Independence Square, Kyiv Post reported.
Update — Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. ET: The seven-floor Trade Unions building on Kyiv's Independence Square which served as the HQ for protestors was set on fire with people trapped inside.
Update — Feb. 18, 6:37 p.m. ET: Death toll has risen to 20, while more than 1,000 have been reported injured.
Vice President Joe Biden called Ukraine's president to express "grave concern" regarding the crisis. He asked Yanukovych to "pull back government forces and exercise maximum restraint."
Update — Feb. 18, 5:35 p.m. ET: Riot police resume offensive against protesters in Kiev's Independence Square.
Update — Feb. 18, 4:15 p.m. ET: At least 13 people are now being reported dead, including six policemen according to the Interior Ministry.
Update — Feb. 18, 3:45 p.m. ET:
Presidential adviser Hanna Herman told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: "Negotiations only happen when the force methods of fighting are stopped, when the opposition takes armed people off the streets and when calm is renewed in the country, Kyiv Post reported.
Update — Feb .18, 3:17 p.m. ET:
Three police officers have been killed in clashes according to Ukraine's Interior Ministry, the Guardian reported.
A total of 135 law enforcement officers have been hospitalized, 35 of them in serious condition.
Update — Feb. 18, 2:40 p.m. ET:
President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk are reportedly meeting tonight in a bid to end the violence and resolve the nation's political crisis, according to Channel 5.
Police warned women and children to leave the area as they used water cannons and stun grenades while protestors set fire to part of the tent encampment.
Top opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for the police to back off and urged both sides to call a truce until morning.
Channel 5, a Ukrainian news channel that broadcast the protests, was reportedly shut down.
Ukraine's wealthiest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, said in a statement that there were "no circumstances that would justify the use of force against peaceful citizens."
"Peaceful citizens must not suffer in any situation. This must be the main objective for the government, the opposition and all conflicting parties.
Human losses and injuries suffered by protesters and law-enforcers during street clashes is an unacceptable price for political mistakes."
He urged an end to the bloodshed in the streets of Kiev and called on all the opposing parties to return to the negotiations process immediately and continue to work without any delay until a solution to Ukraine's political crisis was found.
Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71
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