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story.lead_photo.caption Riot police clash with protesters in central Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014. Hundreds of protesters on Sunday clashed with riot police in the center of the Ukrainian capital, after the passage of harsh anti-protest legislation last week seen as part of attempts to quash anti-government demonstrations. A group of radical activists began attacking riot police with sticks, trying to push their way toward the Ukrainian parliament building, which has been cordoned off by rows of police and buses. (AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)

KIEV — Thousands of anti-government demonstrators clashed for hours with riot police in Ukraine's capital Sunday, attacking officers with sticks, stones and flares after new laws were passed to stifle protests. Dozens of people, including more than 20 police, were injured.

The protesters, many wearing hard hats and gas masks in defiance of the new legislation, also used stun grenades and fire extinguishers on officers. A police bus was set on fire, and some activists broke pavement into chunks.

Police responded by using tear gas and stun grenades of their own. Water cannons were also fired at the protesters in temperatures of 18 degrees, but the clashes continued.

The violence seriously escalated Ukraine's political crisis, which erupted two months ago after President's Viktor Yanukovych's decision to freeze ties with the European Union and seek a huge bailout from Russia.

The decision set off round-the-clock protests in Kiev's center, where demonstrators built a large tent camp. The protests have been mostly peaceful, but anger rose sharply after Yanukovych on Friday approved laws sharply limiting Ukrainians' rights to protest, civic activism and free speech. The U.S. called that legislation "undemocratic."

Photo by The Associated Press
Pro-European Union activists stand in front of a barricade of their tent camp to protect it in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. About seventy people who oppose demonstrators in Kiev came to the protester's tent camp to destroy it. Ukraine’s president on Friday ignored sharp Western criticism and approved controversial anti-protest legislation aimed at quashing massive anti-government demonstrations which have rocked Kiev for nearly two months. A poster at left criticizes Ukrainian judicial system. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

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