Sniper fire brings disturbing new dimension to Ukraine violence

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A disturbing new development in the Ukrainian conflict has been the use of snipers, with both sides blaming the other. Gunfire is said to have been the cause of the vast majority of those killed and injured this week.

Witnesses said snipers fired on anti-government demonstrators as they tried to retake Independence Square on Thursday morning. Dozens wounded in the fighting – as well as the bodies of those killed – were dragged away.

Protest leaders warned demonstrators not to stray beyond the perimeter of Independence Square, to avoid sniper fire.

A video published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty showed riot police and a sniper firing from fortified positions in the direction of protesters.

Ukraine’s police force has been armed with combat weapons, the country’s acting interior minister said. The ministry’s website said ‘Berkut’ riot police had the right to use their weapons to free hostages being held by protesters, adding that a sniper had injured 20 police officers.

Ukraine’s presidency has blamed protesters for starting violence and using snipers who were shooting to kill. It said dozens of police officers had been killed and injured.