Police fired guns and used clubs, tear gas and flash grenades this morning in a bid to repel thousands of demonstrators marching on the Verkhovna Rada, as parliament was set to meet and consider opposition demands for a new constitution and change in government.
Police before noon were openly firing guns — some with rubber bullets and some with steel bullets — near Institutska Street. Many people were injured, including at least one man with a rubber bullet. Several front-line fighters were also fired upon.
Numerous injuries were reported by noon, including one man who lost his hand after a grenade was tossed at him by police. Also three other people, including two men and a woman, were seen injured.
Protesters responded with sticks, stones and some explosives.
At least one protester was seriously injured, bleeding from the head and being carried from the scene.
The clashes broke out in at least three separate approaches to parliament: on Mariinsky Park, on Hrushevskoho Street and on Institutska Street near Shovkovychna Street. The most serious clashes were taking place on Institutska and Shovkovychna streets.
Institutska Street and Shovkovychna Street
By noon, several police trucks were on fire after violent clashes between police and protesters at the intersection of Institutska and Shovkovychna streets.
At 11 a.m., protesters had set on fire one police truck that had been blocking protesters from reaching parliament. Police quickly put out that fire, but protesters started more.
At least four officers took rooftop positions on 17/5 Institutska St., a five-story residential and commerical building, and were lobbing smoke and flash grenades down on protesters who tossed fireworks at the police. Other officers had taken positions inside the building.
At least two officers on the rooftop were firing into the crowd of demonstrators with shotguns — some with rubber bullets and others with steel bullets. A spotter for the police was also on the roof, directing officers where to fire in the crowd. Other officers continued to throw tear gas into the crowd.
A group of protesters stormed the building with the police snipers and broke windows. The front entrance of 17/5 Institutska St. was set on fire as thousands of protesters shouted at the police on the rooftop. The front entrance of teh building was in flames. As police tried to exit, they were forced back inside by protesters.
Protesters — at least nine of them — made it to the roof on Institutska Street, some of them brandishing metal bars, in a tense standoff with police on the roof as more gunshots were being fired down on the crowd by police.
By noon, however, police had retreated and protesters had triumphantly scaled the roof and were waving a large Ukrainian flag. It was unclear where the armed police on the rooftop went, but at least two officers were trapped inside the building.
Nearby on Lypska Street, a group of protesters nearby at 11:30 a.m. broke into a ruling pro-presidential Party of Regions building.
Journalist-opposition activist Tetyana Chornovol was among the protesters trying to scale the fence, and throwing stones to break windows of the party building.
Someone with a hose inside fired water on the attacking demonstrators as Chornovol entered the party building and gleefully threw documents outside. A person inside the party building threw water bottles from a second floor window on protesters. There were no police or guards present. Demonstrators were chipping away with a hatchet at the door and looked set to enter.
Earlier this morning, some two dozen demonstrators dislodged a police vehicle blocking their path to begin the clashes with police. Protesters pushed back police some 10 meters closer to the parliament on Shovkovychna Street.
Many of the thousands of demonstrators were digging up paving stones underneath their feet this morning and passing them to the front line for dozens of fighters to throw at police. The brigade included old and young women.
Opposition lawmaker Volodymyr Ariev said on Twitter: “Law enforcers were the first to use grenades and shoot.
When lawmaker Olena Kondratiuk tried to pass them, they were aiming at her legs.”
Smoke was everywhere as convoys of protesters continued to dig up and pass paving stones to front-line fighters.
Other groups of demonstrators were massed on Hrushevskhoho Street, the flashpoint for previous violence between police and protesters. Hundreds of “people’s self-defense” had taken positions between barricades abandoned only a day earlier Feb. 17. A Kyiv Post reporter on the scene said they appeared to be braced for violent conflict as riot police amassed on teh other side.
Demonstrators on Hrushevskoho Street were starting to burn tires, as they have done in previous standoffs, to create a smokescreen between them and police.
Oleksandr Chaban of Kyiv came to support demonstrators on Hrushevskoho Street, but says he doesn’t believe the fight will be at this location. “Too many police officers on the other side here just stupid to fight against that. Besides that I hope the situation can still be peacefully resolved in parliament today,” he said. “Besides I hope that the sitaution can still be peacefully resolved in parliament today.”
However, 300 to 400 “people’s self-defense” fighters massed in rows, put on their masks and stood in rows as if ready for fighting. The effect was to draw police away from Institutska Street, the scene of today’s most violent clashes so far, and back down on Hrushevskoho Street.
Also groups of anti-government and pro-government demonstrators were massing in nearby Mariinsky Park. Some 7,000 anti-government protesters were massed in the park, including many members of the opposition Svoboda Party. They chant “Together to victory!”
About 11 a.m, protesters broke down a metal fence protecting the parliament building, but were stopped in their advance by police firing tear gas. The protesters did not retreat, however, and appeared to be massing for an assault on parliament.