KIEV, Ukraine — Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine's embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the melee that ensued left at least 33 people dead.
Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or on planks of wood.
Protesters were also seen leading policemen with hands held high around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev — Ukraine's Interior ministry said 67 police were captured in all. They are being held in Kiev's occupied City Hall, an opposition lawmaker said.
An AP cameraman saw snipers shooting at protesters in Kiev and video footage showed that at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.
President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who demand his resignation are locked in a battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country, mostly in its western cities, are in open revolt against Yanukovych's central government, while many in eastern Ukraine favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.
At least 59 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in the three-month, mostly peaceful political crisis. Thursday was the deadliest day yet.
An Associated Press reporter saw 21 bodies Thursday laid out on the edge of the protest camp. Protest medic Andriy Huk later told the AP that 32 activists have been killed. In addition, one policeman was killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov said.
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Information for this article was contributed by Maria Danilova, Jim Heintz and Yury Uvarov in Kiev.