AP reporter covering protests in Kiev witnesses bloodiest day in Ukraine's post-Soviet history

The Associated Press

AP reporter Yuras Karmanau poses for a photo in front of a stage on the Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Karmanau reported on Thursday’s violence in Kiev that left dozens of people killed and hundreds wounded, the bloodiest day in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history.(AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

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Yanukovych made some concessions and tensions abated for a few weeks, but they flared up again this week after Yanukovych loyalists in parliament refused to trim powers of the presidency as protesters had demanded. As they had in January, protesters assaulted police lines with stones and firebombs, but this time the police response was ferocious.

Earlier during the protests, life in Kiev went on as usual. Streets were full of people doing their daily errands. Stores, restaurants and cafes along the downtown avenue near the Maidan stayed open. The protest camp even became a daily attraction for many residents.

That all changed sharply this week, as clashes between protesters and police turned into urban warfare. The sound of police stun grenades echoed across the Maidan and heavy black smoke from burning tires, which protesters set to block the way to police, filled Kiev's skies.

The subway shut down, schools and most offices in central Kiev were closed and streets became empty. People across the city rushed to get cash and buy staples. Most downtown restaurants and cafes were closed, so finding a place to eat became a real challenge.

But many ordinary people still came to the Maidan, to the front lines with police, bringing food, water and clothes to its exhausted defenders.

"Ukraine's fate is being decided here — whether we will become part of Europe or slide back," said Inga Leshchenko, a 67-year-old school teacher who brought homemade food to the protesters. 

"Every Ukrainian should help the Maidan," she said. "I can help by making sandwiches and homemade pies."

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Yuras Karmanau is an AP reporter based in Minsk, Belarus.

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