Central Kiev erupted in battles, smoke, grenades and gunfire on Thursday morning as bands of young male protesters drove riot police lines back from Independence Square and took control over a much larger swath of territory.
Shortly before 9am volleys of smoke and stun grenades as well as what sounded like automatic gunfire rang through Kiev as police initially sought to stem the offensive. Youths armed with axes, knives, truncheons and corrugated iron shields advanced on the police on a bridge behind the square that had been set alight.
The common riot police lines dissolved as they were bussed away, to be replaced by “Berkut” (police special forces).
A large area surrounding the Ukraina hotel, which an hour earlier had been under the control of riot police, fell to the young protesters. Dozens of wounded were dragged away on planks of wood, on makeshift stretchers, or dragged along the ground on their backs.