National Geographic News
Anti-government protesters clash with riot police.

Ukrainian protesters take shelter behind metal shields.

Photograph by Emeric Fohlen, NurPhoto/REX/AP

Published February 19, 2014

Protesters at Kiev's Independence Square stand under metal shields to protect themselves against riot police armed with stun grenades and water cannon.

In bloody clashes Tuesday and Wednesday, 26 people—both government foes and supporters—were killed. (See also: "How History, Geography Explain Ukraine's Political Crisis.")

Ukrainian authorities said the military would begin an "anti-terrorist operation" to stop what it said was an attempt to overthrow the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Flames Erupt Amid Kiev Protests

Anti-government protesters protect themselves behind shields.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SERGEI SUPINSKY, AFP/GETTY

The center of Kiev was engulfed Tuesday and Wednesday in the worst violence since the start of Ukraine's three-month political crisis.

Ukraine’s Protesters Turn to Stones

Anti-government protesters use a sling as they fire objects towards Interior Ministry members and riot police.
Photograph by Vasily Fedosenko, Reuters

Anti-government protesters create a makeshift catapult to use against police and Interior Ministry officials.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the night of violence an attempted coup and used the phrase "Brown revolution," a reference to the rise of Nazi power in Germany.

Bloodshed Amid Protests in Kiev

Anti-government protesters are wounded after the clash with the police in Kiev.
PHOTOGRAPH BY OLEKSANDR RATUSHNIAK, AFP/GETTY

Many protesters were wounded during the fighting in the square, but the violence spread to other quarters as well. A journalist with the daily Ukrainian newspaper Vesti, Vyacheslav Veremiy, was returning home at 2 a.m. when his taxi was besieged by a band of armed thugs. He was shot in the chest and died.

Protesters Defend Camp

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in front of the Parliament in central Kiev.
Photograph by Emeric Fohlen, NurPhoto/Sipa USA/AP

The protesters defended what was left of their encampment by creating a ring of fire fueled by the burning of tents, field kitchens, and other equipment.

The head of Ukrainian state security said Tuesday night's turmoil extended well beyond Kiev. "In many regions of the country, municipal buildings, offices of the Interior Ministry, state security and the prosecutor general, army units and arms depots are being seized," Oleksandr Yakimenko said in a statement.

Molotov Cocktails Burn in Kiev Protest

A Berkut special forces of the Ukrainian police officer prepares to throw a Molotov cocktail.
Photograph by Alexander Koerner, Getty

A Ukrainian officer from the Berkut special forces appears ready to hurl a Molotov cocktail during the bloody protests in Kiev. President Yanukovych blames the violence on the "criminal activities of radical opposition forces," and criticized the West for its unwillingness to see the crisis in those terms.

Blaze Batters Riot Police

Riot policemen stand guard as they are hit by fire caused by molotov cocktails.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STRINGER, REUTERS

Ukrainian riot police stand guard as they are bombarded by Molotov cocktails that spark a fire in their midst during violent clashes on Tuesday. Ukrainian President Yanukovych said there was no longer room for compromise now that the anti-government protesters had resorted to arms.

The opposition also stiffened its stance. "All the world is watching Ukraine," said opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion. "I can't imagine working with Yanukovych's government now."

Protesters Raid Government Offices

Anti-government protesters hold a photo of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich as they attack an office of the pro-presidential Party of the Regions.
Photograph by Maksym Kudymets, Reuters

Anti-government protesters hold a photo of Ukraine's President Yanukovych after ransacking the offices of the pro-presidential Party of the Regions in Kiev on Tuesday.

Several thousand anti-government protesters clashed with police near Ukraine's parliament, torching vehicles and hurling stones in the worst violence to rock Kiev, the capital, since the political crisis started three months ago.

Under a Rainbow

An anti-government protester finds cover during clashes with riot police outside Ukraine's parliament.
Photograph by Efrem Lukatsky, AP

A protester finds cover during pitched battles with police in the streets of Kiev on Tuesday.

The protesters accused President Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would limit the president's powers. Parliamentarians loyal to the president were stalling on taking up the legislation that addressed the reform.

Violence Marks Ukraine Protests

A bandaged man after another night of violent confrontations in Kiev.
PHOTOGRAPH BY REX FEATURES, AP

The outbreak of violence led to at least 250 injured and 26 dead. On Wednesday morning the protesters prepared for confrontation by pouring petrol into plastic bottles for fire bombs and crushing the pavement into pieces to build extensive barricades. The Ukrainian authorities sent riot police, special forces, and regular military into the streets.

Laser Pointers Pick Out Protesters

Riot police forces use laser pointers to detect anti-government protesters.
Photograph by Alexander Koerner, Getty

Riot police use laser pointers to target anti-government protesters during clashes in the early morning hours of Wednesday in Kiev.

Sanctuary Sought Amid Protests

A man prays as people rest inside Mikhailovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STRINGER, REUTERS

Prayers, rest, and first-aid are the principal activities in Mikhailovsky Zlatoverkhy church (St. Michael's), a golden-domed cathedral in the center of Kiev that provided sanctuary to anti-government demonstrators during a fresh outbreak of violence on Wednesday.

Flames of Protest Burn in Kiev

Anti-government protesters walk amid debris and flames.
Photograph by Brendan Hoffman, Getty

A man walks from the burning debris of Independence Square, known as the Maidan, after violent clashes that left the area around the square devastated.

Smoke Billows in Ukraine’s Capital

Anti-government protesters clash with the police during their storm of the Independence Square in Kiev
Photograph by Emeric Fohlen, NurPhoto/Sipa USA/AP

After a night of violent struggle, the two sides were more divided than ever, with protesters vowing to fight to the end. The protests began late last year after the president rejected a trade agreement with the West and accepted a $15 billion bailout from Moscow.

15 comments
Lubomyr Luciuk
Lubomyr Luciuk

Now do a story about Russian imperialism in Ukraine's Crimea.

colin sherwood
colin sherwood

Ukraine is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people who have been shackled and raped through the years by eastern and western countries who wanted to pillage and plunder her wealth. The HEROs ofMaidan Nezalezhnosti should be recognised for what they done which is only the first step of a journey which will be filled with hardships but every step the people of Ukraine take they will take for the better tomorrow.

Bruce Marvel
Bruce Marvel

This will end up like Yugoslavia. It is in the US interest for this region to be unstable around Russia. Funny thing is people don't understand that everything is better than  having a war. It will set the country that is already not doing well back another 50 years. Look at the Yugoslavian region. Divide and Conquer strategy. Look at Iraq, is it better now or was it better under the dictator ?

Katerina Meramveliotaki
Katerina Meramveliotaki

The ppl of Ukraine must be congratulated for their efforts to achieve a better future. This fight means that they don't plant to "end up like Greece", a comment that I dislike but is in everybody's lips. In Greece until a few months ago  and according to the official records there were more than 4 000 suicides and now that the crisis is even deeper nobody is talking about that issue. Ppl die because of cancer without medicine and 46 died due to flu! The poverty and the crisis is so deep and young women with newborn babies live in the streets. Nobody defended them. Obviously the ppl of Ukraine have different opinions than the Greeks who chose to remain idle. Therefore I believe that the Ukrainians are admirable.  

Jonathan Waters
Jonathan Waters

East-West Tensions on the Rise Again. Are we heading into another COLD-WAR?

Peter Kelly
Peter Kelly

I am studying photojournalism right now and came here looking for current stories to write a report on. WOW! I watched this on the news but they cut out most of the really bad stuff. I didn't get just how bad this situation is till seeing this. I feel for the protesters. Peaceful protests only work when the people behind the desk listen to the people. This is what happens when the majority are ignored.

Patrick Fueta
Patrick Fueta

Afterall this outsburst and display of anger, dialogue will still be the solution,  so why not embrace it now and save the destruction of innocent lives

Ron Bullet
Ron Bullet

@Bruce Marvel  With all due respect -you understand nothing. 

We're fighting against corrupted politics, corrupted goverment employeers, corrupted police. EU, Russia - dosn't metter. We need real leaders with real economical and political program, also as real realization of them. 

Here's no war. It's not between civilians or different political/ethnical/religions groups. It's not for governance in country. It's only for transformation from soviet-style state menthality to new formation of clear state regulations. We want to live in free country where people are real government 

Ron Bullet
Ron Bullet

@Jonathan Waters  No, we're not. We have very strong connections with Russia, EU, USA, etc. But we have to be adult nation and have to choose our own way

Konstantin Hontcharenko
Konstantin Hontcharenko

@Peter Kelly  Hello. I am from Kiev and live at 15 km from Maidan. I completely agree with your ideas. I'd like to say that Yanukowich could have prevented this bloodshed but he ignored it. He had enough time and opportunities to stop it. However he hates Ukrainian ordinary people and especially he hates Kiev. He came from Donets region which historically was full of criminals and people with poor reputation. Over 40 criminals are in Ukrainian parliament and government. They abuse their power and are over-confident that they wil escape punishment. As the result today over 70 were killed and over 600 injured. I RESPECT truly those guys, students, old people who were not scared to raise their head despite flying grenades and bullets. They are REAL HEROES.


Share

Feed the World

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

Latest From Nat Geo

See more photos »