<iframe scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" id="nyt_video_player" title="New York Times Video - Embed Player" src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000002723825&playerType=embed" frameborder="0" height="373" width="480"></iframe> Anti-government protests continued in Kiev's Independence Square on Thursday. The fighting shattered a truce declared just hours earlier. KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine descended into a deeper spiral of lethal violence on Thursday as both protesters and riot policemen used firearms in clashes and fear intensified that President Viktor F. Yanukovych would declare a state of emergency, a move that could herald the deployment of the military. The former Soviet republic of 46 million hurtled toward a dangerous new phase of a three-month-long political crisis after a truce announced overnight by Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leaders collapsed amid accusations of treachery on both sides. There were unconfirmed accounts that 70 protesters in Kiev were killed by gunfire in a confrontation with the police, which would make Thursday the deadliest day so far. Short of calling in troops it looked unlikely that Mr. Yanukovych could restore his battered authority and regain control of the capital, Kiev, as a growing number of once loyal members of his ruling Party of Regions, including the mayor of Kiev, announced they were quitting the party to protest the bloodshed. About the only thing that was entirely clear by Thursday afternoon was that protesters had reclaimed and even expanded territory in the center of Kiev that they had lost just two days earlier when police launched a bloody but unsuccessful assault on Independence Square, the focal point of protests since late November. As the protesters, reinforced by swarms of ordinary Kiev residents, erected new barricades around their extended protest zone, a woman mounted a stage to appeal for help from foreign governments to prevent the president from declaring a state of emergency. “A state of emergency means the beginning of war. We cannot let that happen,” she said. In the center of Kiev, however, war had basically broken out, with the police having been authorized to use live ammunition. Just after dawn, young men in ski masks opened a breach in their barricade near the stage on Independence Square, ran across a hundred yards of smoldering debris of what had been called a ring of fire to defend the stage, and confronted riot police officers who were firing at them with shotguns. Unidentified snipers meanwhile opened fire. The death toll from the morning’s clashes was unclear but some witnesses said at least 21 protesters had been killed. The Associated Press quoted Dr. Oleh Musiy, a medical coordinator for the protesters, as saying that at least 70 protesters were killed and more than 500 wounded. There was no way to immediately corroborate his assertion. By noon, 11 corpses had been laid out in a makeshift outdoor morgue under a Coca-Cola umbrella at the end of Independence Square. Other bodies were taken elsewhere. The demonstrators captured at least several dozen policemen, whom they marched, dazed and bloody, toward the center of the square through a crowd of men who heckled and shoved them. A Ukrainian Orthodox priest accompanied the officers, pleading with their captors not to hurt them. “People are very angry but we must not act like Yanukovych does,” said the priest, Nikolai Givailo. There was no immediate comment from the government to swirling rumors that it planned to bring in the military to clear Independence Square, a task previously left in the hands of badly stretched anti-riot forces under the Interior Ministry. In an ominous sign of turmoil in the leadership about how to proceed, President Yanukovych on Wednesday dismissed the country’s top general. On Thursday the mayor of Kiev, who is also a member of parliament for the ruling Party of Regions, announced that he was qung the party. He was one of nearly a dozen party members to announce their resignation Thursday, according to Ukrainian media reports. “Human lives should be the highest value in our state and nothing can contradict this principal,” the mayor, Volodymyr Makeyenko, said in a video statement. Lamenting that the violence was claiming “tens of ordinary people ever day,” he noted bitterly that “no oligarch has died, no politician has died.” With antigovernment demonstrators surging toward and then past police lines, what had been a narrowly circumscribed protest area ringed by police officers expanded rapidly and, amid a continual racket of gunshots, reached up a hill overlooking the square to the edge of the main government district of the capital. The fighting left bodies lined up on a sidewalk, and makeshift clinics crammed with the wounded, and sirens and gunfire ringing through the center of the city. “There will be many dead today,” Anatoly Volk, 38, one of the demonstrators, said. He was watching stretchers carry dead and wounded men down a stairway slick with mud near the Hotel Ukraina. Mr. Volk said the protesters had decided to try to retake the square because they believed the truce announced around midnight was a ruse. The young men in ski masks who led the push, he said, believed it was a stalling maneuver by President Yanukovych to buy time to deploy troops in the capital after the authorities decided the civilian police had insufficient forces to clear the square. “A truce means real negotiations,” Mr. Volk said. “They are just delaying to make time to bring in more troops. They didn’t have the forces to storm us last night. So we are expanding our barricades to where they were before. We are restoring what we had.” Gunfire crackled around the Hotel Ukraina and protesters were hit in front of the Globus shopping mall. One protester walked near the fighting with a double-barreled shotgun slung over a shoulder. “If our guys are dying, excuse me, what can I say,” said the man, who offered only his first name, Oleg. “If they didn’t use guns, the idea never would have come to us.” The widespread use of firearms in the center of the city was a new and ominous phase for the protest movement. Supporters of the opposition earlier this week overran an Interior Ministry garrison near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and captured its armory; it was unclear whether any of the commandeered weapons were being used on Thursday in the fighting in the capital. The part of the square back under the control of the protesters after the fighting Thursday was an otherworldly panorama of soot-smeared paving stones, debris and coils of smoldering wire from burned tires. <figure class="media photo embedded has-adjacency layout-large-horizontal" data-media-action="modal" itemprop="associatedMedia" itemscope="" itemid="http://static01.nyt.com/images/2014/02/20/world/europe/Ukraine/Ukraine-articleLarge.jpg" itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject"> <figcaption class="caption" itemprop="description">Antigovernment protesters kept barricades burning on Wednesday in Kiev, Ukraine, to prevent riot police officers from storming Independence Square. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times</figcaption> </figure> From the stage on the square, a speaker yelled “Glory to Ukraine!” and the crowd yelled back “Glory to its heroes!” That echoed the slogans of the World War II-era Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, guerrilla armies that battled the Nazis, Poles and Soviets in an ultimately futile quest for an independent Ukraine. The protests began in November when Mr. Yanukovych rejected a trade and economic agreement with the European Union and turned instead to Russia for financial aid. The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland met with Mr. Yanukovych on Thursday morning in Kiev but the outcome of that meeting was not immediately clear. They were planning later to fly to Brussels, where European Union foreign ministers were meeting in an emergency session to devise a response to the Ukraine crisis, which was expected to include punitive sanctions. In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Mr. Yanukovych said opposition leaders had “crossed the limits when they called people to arms” and demanded that they “dissociate themselves from the radical forces that provoke bloodshed.” The protest movement certainly contains extremist elements but, at least in Kiev and many other cities, particularly in the western regions, it has a wide base of public support. After talks with Mr. Yanukovych late Tuesday as violence spun out of control, the opposition leader Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk complained that the president had only a single offer: “that we surrender.” Adding to the Ukrainian leadership’s alarm on Wednesday were a string of reports from the west of the country, a longstanding bastion of antigovernment sentiment, that the offices of governors, prosecutors, the police and the state security service had been stormed by protesters and, in several cases, set on fire. In Lviv, near the border with Poland, what had been a peaceful blockade of a sprawling compound housing barracks and the Interior Ministry’s western command turned early Wednesday into the seizure of a major military installation. Ihor Pochinok, the editor in chief of a Lviv newspaper, Ekspres, said the city was bubbling with fury at the assault on Tuesday on Independence Square but “was functioning normally, except for state authorities.” Protesters, he said, had also stormed the offices of the regional governor, a Yanukovych appointee, resuming an occupation that had ended just three days earlier, and raided the local headquarters of the state prosecutor, the state security service and several district police stations. Around 140 guns were seized from a police armory. Beyond Lviv, antigovernment activists besieged or seized police stations and administrative buildings in the western cities of Uzhgorod, Lutsk and Khmelnitsky and the eastern city of Poltava. In Lutsk, protesters attacked the regional police department, which responded with stun grenades and other fire. The building was then set on fire by protesters throwing gasoline bombs. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/world/europe/ukraine.html?hpw&rref=world&_r=0 Here are five things to know about the demonstrations: Why the violence escalated on Tuesday: Tuesday's bloodshed came just days after opposition leaders reached a deal with authorities to vacate Kiev’s city hall in exchange for the release of jailed protesters. But any progress between the two sides quickly fell apart on Monday when Russia announced it would renew financial support to Ukraine while opposition leaders were meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Protesters took it as a sign that President Yanukovych was set on further aligning the country with Russia and shunning Europe and the U.S., despite recent concessions from Yanukovych aimed at appeasing protestors. Making matters worse, the Ukrainian government on Tuesday delayed a session that would have dealt with constitutional reforms to limit presidential powers. A brief history of the conflict: Tensions spiked in late November when Yanukovych accepted a $15 billion loan from Russia and rejected a trade deal with the European Union. That move that infuriated the country's opposition leadership, who had been pushing for a closer alignment with Europe. Russia has sought to maintain its geopolitical and economic influence by keeping the former Soviet republic closely aligned with it. That has led to clashed between European leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who talked Yanukovych out of the long-planned treaty with the EU. The protests had remained relatively calm, and late last month the government offered the resignation of the pro-Russia prime minister and the repeal of anti-dissent laws passed earlier this year. And after an initial payment, Russia suspended funding to Ukraine following the violence and the resignation of the pro-Russian prime minister. But Monday’s announcement by Russia that it would resume payments was viewed as an indication the Ukrainian government has no plans to ease its relationship with the largest country in the world. The battles taking place in Ukraine go back much farther than November though, and underscore the tensions between Russia's struggle to maintain its regional influence and Europe and America’s attempts to get former Soviet Republics to more closely embrace Western politics. What’s at stake: Russia threatened crippling sanctions against Ukraine if they entered into the EU agreement. And Ukraine, already on the brink of economic collapse, desperately needed the influx of cash and greatly discounted cost of gas imports promised by Putin. For Russia, retaining its influence over a former a former Soviet republic with 46 million people is nearly essential for the country to maintain its geopolitical influence. The European Union launched an ambitious program four years ago that would align former Soviet republics closer to Western countries and away from Russia’s scope. But Moscow has countered with harsh sanctions against who it believes chooses Europe over Russia. Politics is thought to also have played a role. Yanukovych, up for re-election in 2015, is largely popular with the eastern and southern parts of the country that favor a tighter relationship with Russia. What does the U.S. think about the clashes: U.S. officials have so far been measured when talking about the protests, denouncing the violence but not announcing support for either side. Vice President Joe Biden did call Yanukovych on Tuesday and urged the government “to address protesters' legitimate grievances and to put forward serious proposals for political reform,” according to a readout of the call. And a spokesperson for Secretary of State John Kerry says the department calls on “ … President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government to de-escalate the situation immediately, and resume dialogue with the opposition on a peaceful path forward.” U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey R. Payatt threatened both sides with sanctions. "We believe Ukraine's crisis can still be solved via dialogue, but those on both sides who fuel violence will open themselves to sanctions," Payatt tweeted.