Thick black smoke from burning tires engulfed parts of downtown Kyiv as an ultimatum issued by the opposition to the president to call early election or face street rage was set to expire with no sign of a compromise on Thursday. The three main opposition leaders urged protesters late Wednesday to refrain from violence for 24 hours until their ultimatum to President Viktor Yanukovych expires. They demanded that Yanukovych dismiss the government, call early elections and scrap harsh anti-protest legislation that triggered the violence. The largely peaceful protest against Yanukovych’s decision to shun the EU and turn toward Moscow in November descended into violence Sunday when demonstrators, angered by the passage of repressive laws intended to stifle the protest, marched on official buildings.
Police on Wednesday tore down barricades and chased the protesters down the hill from official buildings, but demonstrators later set hundreds of tires ablaze and regained their positions under plumes of heavy smoke helped by the wind blowing in the police direction.
Tensions were high Thursday, amid reports of abduction of activists by police, but police and demonstrators, separated by the wall of smoke, refrained from any decisive action.