Last night, Ukrainian security forces in riot gear stormed—and then mostly withdrew from—Kiev's Independence Square in an attempt to rid the plaza of the thousands of demonstrators who have occupied it for the past two weeks.
The chaotic nighttime raid began when police broke through heavily-reinforced barricades and charged into the protestors—often falling into them because of the ice— who were yelling "Peaceful Protest! Peaceful Protest!" Some of the protestors reportedly sprayed the police with water. The confrontations continued all night, but by 11 a.m., most security forces had left the plaza while the protestors remained.
"They attacked us, but we drove them back," opposition leader and former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko shouted from a state, according to BuzzFeed. "[President Viktor] Yanukovych's plan didn't work!"
Hours before ordering the raid, President Yanukovych met with Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, for more than three hours. After news of the raid broke, Ashton immediately condemned Yanukovych's decision. "The authorities did not need to act under the cover of darkness," she said in a statement.
But Secretary of State John Kerry had perhaps strongest-worded diplomatic response to the attempted crackdown. "The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv's Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity," Kerry said in a statement. "As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better."
[Images via AP]