Violence flares in Ukraine’s capital just as it’s easing up in the east

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Ukraine police hurt
Police were wounded Monday after the parliament voted for more autonomy for pro-Russia rebels.
Yuriy Kirnichny

KYIV, Ukraine — Violence rocked Ukraine on Monday, but not where it usually does.

This time the capital city’s streets erupted with fierce clashes between police and protesters, which left one National Guardsman dead and 125 people injured, six of them in critical condition, according to the Interior Ministry.

By Tuesday, two more National Guard officers had succumbed to their injuries, bringing the death toll to three.

Officials said a far-right group started brawling with officers outside the parliament, even reportedly setting off a grenade, in what was the bloodiest violence in Kyiv since last year’s street revolution and a rare occurrence for the capital.


Video from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via Storyful.


Video from YouTube/#ТП або Так Повелося via Storyful.

It happened as nationalist protesters staged a large, initially peaceful, demonstration against parliament’s decision earlier in the day to grant special status to rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine.

Critics say the vote to amend the constitution is a capitulation to Russia — which backs two separatist, self-proclaimed “republics” in eastern Ukraine — and a betrayal of Ukrainian national interests.

The violence in Kyiv overshadowed another surprising development closer to the Russian border.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and the separatist insurgents, which has killed nearly 7,000 people in over a year, has apparently calmed way down in recent days.

Ukrainian security officials reported on Monday that guns had all but fallen silent along the front line. Officials hope a new ceasefire will take effect Tuesday, and actually hold this time.

That’s especially important because an uptick in violence earlier this month led many to fear another escalation in fighting. The previous ceasefire, agreed last February, has been routinely violated.

“The long-awaited ceasefire has become a real gift for schoolchildren, for whom the first bell will sound out in the front-line zone,” the Ukrainian military press center wrote on Facebook Monday.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has monitored the conflict, also said it saw a “marked decrease in fighting” over the past two days.

Given Ukraine’s history of shattered ceasefires, there’s no guarantee this one will hold.

More from GlobalPost: Ukraine is still at war, and its bloodiest battle isn't over