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Violence in Kiev Erupts

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Thousands of EuroMaidan opposition activists rallied in central Kiev again Feb. 18. Some protesters threw rocks at police outside Parliament and attempted to break through police cordons, setting two trucks on fire. Another group of activists hurled Molotov cocktails at the ruling party headquarters. Police responded by firing rubber bullets and throwing smoke bombs at protesters.

Rioters and police in central Kiev are exchanging smoke and stun grenades, as a fresh wave of violence is gripping the Ukrainian capital. While the rioters have no clear demands, the opposition keeps pushing for the president’s resignation.

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President Viktor Yanukovych was expected to sign an association and free trade agreement with the EU at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Nov. 28-29, but instead announced Nov. 21 that Ukraine was halting the EU integration plans, as they would damage its trade with Russia. The announcement sparked largely peaceful protests in Kyiv and other cities, including Lviv, Donetsk, Odesa, and Kharkiv. However, the demonstrations later turned violent and erupted into the biggest protests the country has experienced since the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution.

 At least 18 people, including seven policemen, have died so far Tuesday. Hundreds more have been injured.

Ukrainian police have surrounded the main anti-government protest camp in the capital, Kiev. Police are now moving into Independence Square.