14 Photos Show How Ukraine Protests Turned Into Fiery Street Battles This Weekend

Protests in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev were reignited over the weekend following the passage of stringent new restrictions on peoples' ability to take to the streets. On Sunday, the demonstration in Maidan Square became violent, as several hundred of the 100,000 protesters present began lobbing fire bombs and cobblestones at police, who responded with stun grenades, tear gas, water cannons, and fire extinguishers, as can be seen in the dramatic photographs below.

The new laws, passed on Thursday by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, prohibit protesters from wearing helmets or face masks for protection, slandering public officials, erecting tents, and participating in mass disorder or protests that involve more than five vehicles. The penalties established range from fines, to police detention, to hard labor sentences.

While the rules were ostensibly put in place to restore order in Kiev — the city has hosted protests since late November, when Yanukovych turned his back on a pact with Western Europe in favor of tightening ties with Russia — opposition leaders assert that the laws are designed to silence the president's hundreds of thousands of critics. Speaking at a Friday press conference, opposition party leader Oleg Tyagnibok said, "Everything that Yanukovych does to usurp power ... Their goal is to copy the Russian and North Korean methods. Yanukovych has started learning, little by little, to be a dictator."

In response to the weekend's violence, Yanukovych has established a working group that hopes to collaborate with opposition leaders like Tyagnibok, and quell the capital's increasing unrest. Unfortunately, in the meantime, the conflict has continued to escalate.

1. Approximately 100,000 people took to the streets on Sunday.

2. Ironically, prior to the new laws' passage, attendance at the weeks-long protests had declined.

3. Peaceful demonstrators flouted new provisions banning the construction of barricades ...

4. ... and the wearing of helmets and other protective gear.

Above: knights for whom "ni" means "no."

5. However, a minority of protesters had other ideas.

6. Several hundred demonstrators began lobbing Molotov cocktails and cobblestones at authorities ...

7. ... causing a police bus in Maidan Square to catch fire.

8. Dozens of protesters and police were injured in the ensuing chaos ...

9. ... as police attempted to quell the disorder using stun grenades, tear gas, and water cannons.

10. Opposition candidate Vitali Klitschko — a former boxer who stands 6' 7" tall — attempted to intervene between protesters and police ...

11. ... but Sunday's protests ultimately devolved into a riot.

12. Hopefully, Yanukovych's working group will act quickly ...

13. ... and be willing to make concrete and lasting concessions ...

14. ... so that peace can return to the streets of Kiev.

15. ... and the country can move forward.

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Nina Ippolito

Nina Ippolito is a freelance writer and editor. Now that she's finally learned to drive, she's trying to master the other skills she missed out on by growing up in New York City: swimming, shooting, and horseback riding. Just not at the same time. Yet.

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