KIEV, Ukraine, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Gunfire in Kiev's Independence Square Thursday shattered a truce declared hours earlier between the Ukrainian government and anti-government protesters.
According to the chief of the National Resistance Headquarters' medical service Sviatoslav Khanenko, more than 60 people were killed on Thursday with the number of casualties expected to rise.
Speaking through the Svoboda party faction's press service, the medical service chief described the attack by government forces:
"According to preliminary reports, over 60 people had been killed as of 1520 today, on February 20, 2014, alone... They are using ordinary combat and armor-piercing bullets, and they are shooting to kill, aiming at the head, neck, chest, and stomach. The main places of concentration of those killed and injured are on Instytutska Street, near Freedom Palace (the former Zhovtnevy Palace), the Ukrayina hotel, and near the Kozatsky hotel on Mykhailivska Street. A female volunteer medical worker has also been gravely wounded in her neck."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych blamed the protesters for the failed truce. In a statement on the presidential website, his office alleged: "The opposition used the negotiation period to buy time, to mobilize and get weapons to protesters."
Meanwhile, Acting Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko confirmed that police have been issued combat weapons. "We signed relevant orders as part of the Antiterrorist Center's work: the law enforcement officials have been provided with combat weapons, and they will be used in line with the law on police."
Three months into anti-government protests that consumed the Ukrainian capitol, a clash between demonstrators and police in Independence Square Tuesday and Wednesday resulted in the deaths of more than 20 protesters.
Euromaidan demonstrations began in November 2013 following President Yanukovych's announcement that Ukraine would not join the EU and have continued for months, despite the freezing temperatures and threat of violence. Protesters at Euromaidan rallies, led by the government opposition parties, have voiced their opposition to Ukraine's economic ties to Russia and have demanded constitutional reform, a more balanced government power structure and the removal of the president.
[Interfax Ukraine News Agency] [CNN]