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Bodies on the streets as Kiev erupts again

Gunfire breaks out and smoke rises over city as pressure mounts on Ukraine's government to bring violence to an end.

Last updated: 20 Feb 2014 11:50
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Top officials were evacuated from a government building overlooking the smoke-filled square [Reuters]

Fierce clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine's capital have erupted anew and news agencies are reporting their journalists have seen bodies laid out on the edge of the protest encampment.

One policeman was killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds on Thursday, Interior Ministry spokeman Serhiy Burlakov told the Associated Press news agency. 

An Associated Press journalist said he had seen 10 bodies lying in the street. Fifteen bodies were lying on the ground covered by blankets on or near Kiev's Independence Square, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.

As the violence exploded and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries were meeting with President Viktor Yanukovich, according to a presidential aide.

Masked anti-government protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at thick lines of armed anti-riot troops.

The demonstrators, who are protesting Yanukovich's decision to strengthen ties with Russia at the expense of the European Union, pushed police forces back some 200 metres to retake control of the entire square, which anti-government protesters have occupied since November.

Top officials were evacuated from a government building overlooking the smoke-filled square, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian government told the Agence-France press news agency.

Police used rubber bullets to try to repel the assault and claimed that a sniper had wounded 20 officers by firing live ammunition from the window of a building overlooking the square.

Yanukovich was holding crisis talks with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, ahead of an emergency meeting in Brussels where the EU is expected to impose sanctions against the Ukrainian government for the violence.

Yanukovich has appeared to struggle to formulate a clear policy over the past few days, which have seen Ukraine's deadliest violence since independence and an escalating war of words between the West and former master Moscow over the future of the country sandwiched between the EU and Russia.

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