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Obama Condemns Violence In Ukraine, Tentative "Truce" Declared

A day after the bloodiest in Ukraine's 22-year post-Soviet history, the U.S. and European Union threaten sanctions. Update: Ukraine's president and the opposition have agreed to a truce to end the bloodshed.

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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:

Ukraine's Yanukovich says he and opposition have agreed to a "truce": Presidential website

Reuters World@ReutersWorld

Ukraine's Yanukovich says he and opposition have agreed to a "truce": Presidential website

04:02 PM - 19 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Police assault tonight canceled, truce called after negotiations b/t opposition, #Yanukovych, reports @ukrpravda_news http://t.co/OeAs08hFKD

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

Police assault tonight canceled, truce called after negotiations b/t opposition, #Yanukovych, reports @ukrpravda_news http://t.co/OeAs08hFKD

04:15 PM - 19 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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:

View this video on YouTube

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Update — Feb. 19, 1:15 p.m. ET:

BREAKING: Ukraine's leader replaces head of army after clashes between police and protesters kill 25 people.

The Associated Press@AP

BREAKING: Ukraine's leader replaces head of army after clashes between police and protesters kill 25 people.

12:55 PM - 19 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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.

REUTERS/Konstantin Grishin

The Defense Ministry said the army could also be used as part of the operation.

#Kiev's main square: before and after pic

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."

Official statement by Ukraine President Yanukovich http://t.co/GaJxcqTIbE — Translated excerpt:

BuzzFeed News@BuzzFeedNews

Official statement by Ukraine President Yanukovich http://t.co/GaJxcqTIbE — Translated excerpt:

08:26 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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.

The journalist Vyacheslav Veremei died in the hospital after being shot by titushki at Muhayliskiy square -EuroMaydanFB |PR News #Euromaidan

Euromaidan PR@EuromaidanPR

The journalist Vyacheslav Veremei died in the hospital after being shot by titushki at Muhayliskiy square -EuroMaydanFB |PR News #Euromaidan

07:50 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Trade Unions House is a combination of sparkles, flames and black skeleton of what it used to be #euromaidan

Katya Gorchinskaya@kgorchinskaya

Trade Unions House is a combination of sparkles, flames and black skeleton of what it used to be #euromaidan

07:27 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Update — Feb. 18, 9:25 p.m. ET: The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is seen directing traffic amid the chaos in Kiev.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

A video uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday showed Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, helping to keep streets in order by directing traffic at the intersection of Artema and Students 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.

#BREAKING Ukraine's Yanukovych refusing to call off assault on protest camp: Klitschko

Agence France-Presse@AFP

#BREAKING Ukraine's Yanukovych refusing to call off assault on protest camp: Klitschko

07:27 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

According to Klitschko, the president blamed the opposition for escalating the conflict.

Talks with Yanikovich were "meaningless" - Klitchko. The president blamed the opposition for escalating the conflict in Ukraine.

Yulia Bragina@YuliaSkyNews

Talks with Yanikovich were "meaningless" - Klitchko. The president blamed the opposition for escalating the conflict in Ukraine.

04:18 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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.

Top floors of Trade Unions bldg engulfed in flames. Reports of people trapped inside. Some climbing down to safety.

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

Top floors of Trade Unions bldg engulfed in flames. Reports of people trapped inside. Some climbing down to safety.

06:50 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Dramatic scenes at #euromaidan fire brigade rescue people from the top of the Trade Union Building

Lyalya Horsky@lyalyaHorsky

Dramatic scenes at #euromaidan fire brigade rescue people from the top of the Trade Union Building

07:33 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Update — Feb. 18, 6:37 p.m. ET: Death toll has risen to 20, while more than 1,000 have been reported injured.

Death toll climbes to 20 people, according to Oleh Musiy, coordinator of medical services for #EuroMaidan. 500 injured. #s expected to climb

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

Death toll climbes to 20 people, according to Oleh Musiy, coordinator of medical services for #EuroMaidan. 500 injured. #s expected to climb

03:07 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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."

Biden called Ukraine’s president today, as Kiev burned:

Brett LoGiurato@BrettLoGiurato

Biden called Ukraine’s president today, as Kiev burned:

05:59 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Update — Feb. 18, 5:35 p.m. ET: Riot police resume offensive against protesters in Kiev's Independence Square.

Berkut riot police again taking offensive action against protesters on Maidan. Stun grenades, tear gas, Molotov cocktails, & firing shotguns

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

Berkut riot police again taking offensive action against protesters on Maidan. Stun grenades, tear gas, Molotov cocktails, & firing shotguns

02:13 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Truly nightmarish scene on Maidan. Fires raging all around, police showering protesters with rubber & live ammo, bloody faces everywhere.

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

Truly nightmarish scene on Maidan. Fires raging all around, police showering protesters with rubber & live ammo, bloody faces everywhere.

05:34 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Update — Feb. 18, 3:45 p.m. ET:

#Yanukovych adviser Hanna Herman tells @RFERL negotiations b/w govt, opposition will only happen if peace restored http://t.co/KqUZoeEXuK

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

#Yanukovych adviser Hanna Herman tells @RFERL negotiations b/w govt, opposition will only happen if peace restored http://t.co/KqUZoeEXuK

03:31 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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.

Protester tents burning on Maidan right now after police toss Molotov cocktails from their perch above square. #euromaidan #ukraine

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

Protester tents burning on Maidan right now after police toss Molotov cocktails from their perch above square. #euromaidan #ukraine

01:12 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Tents buring on Maidan, police firing shotguns, protesters tossing Molotov cocktails, #Ukraine national anthem being sung by #EuroMaidan.

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

Tents buring on Maidan, police firing shotguns, protesters tossing Molotov cocktails, #Ukraine national anthem being sung by #EuroMaidan.

01:24 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

More protesters entering #EuroMaidan camp right now, many carrying tires. They've burned tires during these clashes to create a smokescreen.

Christopher Miller@ChristopherJM

More protesters entering #EuroMaidan camp right now, many carrying tires. They've burned tires during these clashes to create a smokescreen.

01:46 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Top opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for the police to back off and urged both sides to call a truce until morning.

Top opp. leader @Yatsenyuk_AP calls for police to back off and make truce until morning

Dan Peleschuk@dpeleschuk

Top opp. leader @Yatsenyuk_AP calls for police to back off and make truce until morning

01:43 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

#Yatsenyuk: Pull back police, end bloodshed, announce truce till morning. Stop it, Viktor Yanukovych!

Myroslava Petsa@myroslavapetsa

#Yatsenyuk: Pull back police, end bloodshed, announce truce till morning. Stop it, Viktor Yanukovych!

01:41 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

#Yatsenyuk: Don't cover #Ukraine with blood. Immediate truce is our demand, then we'll join negotiations.

Myroslava Petsa@myroslavapetsa

#Yatsenyuk: Don't cover #Ukraine with blood. Immediate truce is our demand, then we'll join negotiations.

01:42 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Channel 5, a Ukrainian news channel that broadcast the protests, was reportedly shut down.

5th channel - the biggest news channels which show the protest on TV shut down around the country #ukraine #maidan

Nataliya Gumenyuk@ngumenyuk

5th channel - the biggest news channels which show the protest on TV shut down around the country #ukraine #maidan

01:55 PM - 18 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

Contact Max Seddon at max.seddon@buzzfeed.com.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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