Ukrainian protesters ready to 'take a bullet in the head'

Ukrainian protesters

Violent clashes in Kiev set to escalate if president Yanukovych ignores ultimatum to hold snap election

LAST UPDATED AT 11:00 ON Thu 23 Jan 2014

UKRAINE'S opposition leaders have told anti-government protesters to "go on the attack" if embattled president Viktor Yanukovych does not call a snap election to end the crisis.

At least three people have died in violent clashes on the streets of Kiev since demonstrations began on Sunday. While there is an "uneasy standoff" between protesters and riot police this morning, it is unlikely to hold.

Yanukovych held a three-hour meeting with the three main political opposition leaders yesterday, but it ended without a deal, The Guardian reports. Opposition groups described the talks as "useless", setting the scene for further clashes in the capital today.

Opposition leaders issued an ultimatum this morning calling on Yanukovych to announce early elections within 24 hours or face more violence on the streets. Vitali Klitschko , the former heavyweight boxer (pictured above) who has become a prominent opposition leader, said he was willing to face "a bullet in the forehead" if the president did not comply.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov has described the deteriorating situation as "scary" and warned it was "getting out of control". Lavrov told the BBC he believed that EU politicians were guilty of inflaming the situation.

The US has threatened to impose sanctions on Ukraine in an effort to stop the clashes that have seen barricades set on fire and Molotov cocktails hurled at riot police. The fighting continued overnight with parts of Kiev turned into a "war zone", says Sky News.

Government forces have "hit back" using rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to try to disperse the crowds.

Two protesters died from bullet wounds yesterday, according to Ukraine's general prosecutor, while the third died after falling from a rooftop while fighting with police. Protesters report that dozens of people have been seriously injured during the clashes, which have been running since Sunday evening.

 · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.