Feb. 20 - Reuters photography captures the bloodiest day in Ukraine as the death toll tops 50. Multimedia display (no reporter narration).
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WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Fresh fighting flared in central Kiev on Thursday (February 20) shattering a truce declared by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, as the Russian-backed leader met European ministers demanding he compromise with pro-EU opponents.
A Reuters photographer saw the bodies of 21 dead civilians in Independence Square, a few hundred meters from where the president met the EU delegation, after protesters who have occupied the area for almost three months hurled petrol bombs and paving stones to drive riot police from the plaza.
Acting Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharschenko said police had been issued with combat weapons and would use them "in accordance with the law" to defend themselves and others and to free hostages. The ministry said protesters were holding 67 policemen hostage.
In a sign of dwindling support for Yanukovich, his hand-picked head of Kiev's city administration quit the ruling Party of the Regions in protest at bloodshed in the streets.
Thursday's renewed fighting, which subsided after about an hour, heightened concern voiced by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk that Ukraine could descend into civil war or split between the pro-European west and Russian-speaking east.
Local media said more than 30 protesters were killed in Thursday's flare-up, raising the total death toll since Tuesday to at least 51, including at least 12 police.
One opposition group doubled the Thursday death toll estimate. The protesters' medical service said it was too busy treating casualties to count the bodies.
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