Kiev aflame

Kiev aflame

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Violent confrontations between police and protesters have gripped Ukraine, stoking chaos in the former Soviet republic's capital.

Mass demonstrations began in the country last November, sparked by President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to ditch a trade deal with the European Union and turn instead towards Russia. Fierce clashes have broken out over the last few days, and at least three people have died.

. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

After huge pro-European integration protests began last year in Ukraine, the unrest turned more violent on January 19 following the introduction of sweeping anti-protest legislation, which the opposition says paved the way for a police state.

Though many have continued to protest peacefully in an encampment on Independence Square, a group of hard-core demonstrators attacked police with petrol bombs, fireworks and cobblestones. Police replied with rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas.

. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Maks Levin

With clashes raging, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich met opposition leaders on January 22. However, tension remained high as his prime minister branded anti-government protesters "terrorists".

Riot police again faced off with demonstrators, who were inflamed by the news of three who died in street violence the previous night.

Two of the dead men perished from bullet wounds, Ukraine's general prosecutor said, and the third died after plunging from the top of Dynamo football stadium while fighting with police. They were the first protest-related deaths since the political crisis erupted.

. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Maks Levin

Though hard-core protesters have been repelled by forays of baton-wielding riot police, they continue to return.

Fifty people were detained overnight and 29 of them were officially charged with taking part in mass unrest, police said. A total of 167 police have been injured. There was no word on the number of civilians hurt.

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Slideshow

A protester aims his pneumatic gun towards riot police.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

A protester aims his pneumatic gun towards riot police.

A demonstrator (centre, front) stands next to members of the Interior Ministry during a rally.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A demonstrator (centre, front) stands next to members of the Interior Ministry during a rally.

A protester sits in a burnt police bus after a rally near government buildings.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

A protester sits in a burnt police bus after a rally near government buildings.

Ukrainian riot police take cover behind their shields in front of a burnt-out bus.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukrainian riot police take cover behind their shields in front of a burnt-out bus.

Protesters line up during clashes with Ukrainian riot police.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Protesters line up during clashes with Ukrainian riot police.

Demonstrators carry stones during a rally.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Demonstrators carry stones during a rally.

Protesters carry Molotov cocktails during clashes with police.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Protesters carry Molotov cocktails during clashes with police.

A protester hurls a Molotov cocktail towards security forces.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

A protester hurls a Molotov cocktail towards security forces.

Interior Ministry members take cover behind their shields during clashes.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Interior Ministry members take cover behind their shields during clashes.

Demonstrators shelter behind a burnt-out bus.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Demonstrators shelter behind a burnt-out bus.

A protester's clothes burn during clashes with police.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

A protester's clothes burn during clashes with police.

A man carries a Ukrainian flag as he walks past a pile of tyres, set ablaze by demonstrators.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

A man carries a Ukrainian flag as he walks past a pile of tyres, set ablaze by demonstrators.

Protesters clash with Ukranian riot police.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Protesters clash with Ukranian riot police.

Riot police aim their weapons as a woman walks by, holding a wooden cross.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Riot police aim their weapons as a woman walks by, holding a wooden cross.

Blood runs down a man's face during clashes between pro-European protesters and riot police.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Blood runs down a man's face during clashes between pro-European protesters and riot police.

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko (centre) reacts after he was sprayed with a powder fire extinguisher during a rally.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko (centre) reacts after he was sprayed with a powder fire extinguisher during a rally.

Two riot police officers hold a man during clashes.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Two riot police officers hold a man during clashes.

Members of the Interior Ministry drag a man along the ground.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Members of the Interior Ministry drag a man along the ground.

A protester, injured during clashes with police, receives treatment.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Andrew Kravchenko

A protester, injured during clashes with police, receives treatment.

Police and protesters clash near government administration buildings.
. Kiev, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Police and protesters clash near government administration buildings.

Demonstrators throw missiles towards police.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Demonstrators throw missiles towards police.

Protesters stand behind a pile of burning tyres during clashes.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Protesters stand behind a pile of burning tyres during clashes.

Riot police officers pose for a picture near burnt-out vehicles as smoke rises in the background.
. KIEV, Ukraine. REUTERS/Stringer

Riot police officers pose for a picture near burnt-out vehicles as smoke rises in the background.