Ukrainian police have stormed parts of Kyiv’s Independence Square where anti- government protesters have been holed up for several weeks.
Just after midnight, officers dressed in full riot gear began dismantling barricades which activists had set up in their campaign to get the government to reverse its decision to pull out of a trade pact with the EU.
Protesters had been expecting some sort of police response but when it came it was still a shock Scuffles broke out and several people were injured.
“It’s pure provocation, against a peaceful protest,” said one protester. “We are here without any arms – How can you act like that against peaceful people in our country?”
Another group of older campaigners said: “We are here as a human shield to separate the special forces on one side, and our hot heads . We hope we can restrain one from attacking and the others from responding.”
Ukraine’s special forces herded protesters into the centre of the square. As more people turned out to support the activists, the two sides ended up facing each other down.
However just before dawn, police suddenly stopped operations.
Officers remained in place but made no move to pull down tents in the centre of the square where protesters had been living.
Our reporter in Kyiv, Angelina Karyakina had been monitoring the situation throughout the night.
“It’s now a standoff in one of the last areas on Independence Square. Special forces have tried by force to push through the barricades, protesters have with all the force they can muster tried to oppose them,” she said.