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LEAD: Ukrainian protesters blame government for violence Eds: Adds background, death toll detail; epa photos

Europe
23.01.2014
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Kiev (dpa) - Ukrainian opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko blamed the government for escalating violence in an article published Thursday, as another protest leader called for the president to stand down, and the death toll reached at least three.

Attempts by President Viktor Yanukovych to hold the opposition responsible for the "chaos" would fail, Klitschko wrote in the newspaper Bild, amid the clashes and burning barricades in Kiev.

"The people know very well that only he is responsible, that he himself passed these unbelievable laws," in reference to measures introduced last week giving authorities more powers that protesters and human rights groups said are designed to stifle dissent.

On Independence Square protest leaders late Wednesday demanded that Yanukovych step down within 24 hours, as around 50,000 people took to the streets of the capital.

"We will go on tomorrow. If there is a bullet in the head, then there is a bullet in the head," former foreign minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

The body of activist Yuri Verbytskyi was found outside the city bearing marks of torture, euronews reporter Kateryna Khinkulova tweeted and Radio Liberty reported late Wednesday.

It was the third death after officials confirmed two men were shot dead Wednesday, with protestors blaming police, while the Interior Ministry said the officers were not carrying guns.

Klitschko dismissed the denial. "I have seen the pictures, and they leave no doubt: At least two of our number were presumably shot dead by snipers in cold blood."

He also accused the security forces of removing suspected opposition members from hospital beds.

The total death toll from recent days was put at five by the Kyiv Post, citing hospital workers, and as high as seven by some opposition members.

Klitschko, Yatsenyuk and fellow opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok met with the president for three hours Wednesday but failed to make progress.

The initially peaceful protests started in November when Yanukovych refused to sign a partnership agreement with the European Union and sought closer ties with Russia instead.

The recent violence started Sunday after last week‘s passage of laws that curb free speech, establish new penalties for unlawful protests and make it easier to strip legislators of their immunity.

 

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