Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych accused opposition leaders of the current aggravation of the situation in the country. According to Yanukovych, they "crossed the line by calling people to take up arms." This is a " blatant violation of law," and the perpetrators must be brought to justice and punished, Yanukovych said. The head of state called on the opposition leaders, who seek peaceful solution to the conflict, to disassociate themselves from the radicals that provoke bloodshed. Otherwise, there will be a different language used to speak to them, Yanukovich said in an online address to the nation that was published Wednesday on his website.
The President admitted that there were advisers who tried to persuade him to use military force against the protesters. " But I always thought the use of force was a wrong approach. There is a better and more effective way - to find a common language and negotiate," continued Yanukovych. We have had some dialogue that gave some results: two amnesties have been implemented, the second one came into force only on February 17," the Ukrainian president wrote.
"However, opposition leaders have made it so that armed unrest began the next day, on February 18th. Opposition activists did not wait for the meeting of the Verkhovna Rada to start, although the meeting was to consider the laws that would change Ukraine. On the contrary, they blockaded the parliament without giving an opportunity to approve these changes and set forth the requirement to hand over all power to opposition immediately," the president said.
In pictures: Kiev on fire
"These, politicians, if I may say so, attempted to seize power, without having the mandate from the people, illegally, in violation of the Constitution - through pogroms, arsons and murders. Opposition leaders have ignored the basic principle of democracy: power can not be seized in streets and squares - power can be obtained only at the polls - said Yanukovych. - I have told them before - elections are coming soon. If people trust you, you will come to power. If they do not trust you - you won't."
"Yes, we have already paid a very high price for the ambitions of those who want to come to power. Not to make the price even higher, I urge you all - come to your senses! We should sit down at the negotiating table and rescue Ukraine. Future generations will not forgive us if we destroy the state that should belong to them, to our descendants," he said.
Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Health, 25 people have been killed in violent clashes in the center of Kiev (the night before the number of victims was eleven). More than 350 were injured, of whom more than 240 were hospitalized.
Eight victims died in city hospitals (including a journalist of the Vesti newspaper), four others died at the hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thirteen dead bodies were brought to the Kiev clinical forensic medical center.
Ukraine's Ministry for Internal Affairs reported that nine of its officers died from gunshot wounds inflicted during riots in the capital. More than 370 law enforcement officers were injured, 74 of them suffered gunshot wounds.
Officials at the ministry stressed out that the police was not using firearms during the clashes. Only traumatic weapons were used, officials said.
Last night, on February 18, a fire broke out in the House of Trade Unions on Kiev's Independence Square. Fire-fighters rescued more than 40 people who were inside the building, Ukraine's State Service for Emergencies said. Due to the difficult situation in the city center, it was impossible for fire brigades to approach the building. When they finally arrived, the flames had already engulfed the building from the 3rd to the 9th floor.
Meanwhile, the police resumed the offensive on protesters in the morning of February 19. The police threw stun grenades at the protesters, who started burning car tires and throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at riot police.
At about 2:00 a.m. in the morning, several trucks loaded with sand blocked key highways to Kiev. Activists posted messages on social networks saying that one of the highways was open for traffic as activists of "Automaidan" defend the highway.