As clashes in Ukraine claimed their first victims, Russia denounced the violence as a coup attempt and slammed the West for
Two men died from gunshot wounds in violent confrontation of protesters with police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, health authorities said. Police denied they were using live ammunition, and it was not clear whether the fatal injuries had been caused by rubber bullets.
The number of police officers wounded in the three days of clashes rose to 197, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said. Opposition said hundreds of its activists had been injured.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich began talks with opposition leaders on Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
The Russian Parliament said Ukraine was sliding into “civil conflict.”
A strong-worded statement unanimously passed by the State Duma, the Russian lower house, on Wednesday described the violent protests in Ukraine as an “attempt to forcefully overthrow the legitimate government institutions.”
Russian legislators blamed the violence on the Ukrainian opposition’s “extremist wing,” as well Western politicians, who “blatantly interfere” in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
“The State Duma urges Western political circles to stop meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign Ukraine in violation of international law and stop contributing to further escalation of the conflict,” the statement said.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesman for U.S. National Security Council, blamed the Ukraine President for the violence and urged him to withdraw the riot police from downtown Kiev.
Ukrainian analyst Mikhail Pogrebinsky said such Western reaction encouraged protesters to continue violence.