The political unrest that has enveloped Ukraine in recent months reached a new level early this morning when prosecutors in Kyiv reported that two protesters were shot and killed during clashes with police. A third man at the site died after falling from a high place, reports AP.
The protests began in late November when President Viktor Yanukovych opted not to sign a popular economic co-operation deal with the European Union in favour of strengthening ties with Russia. Large demonstrations in the capital Kyiv have been ongoing since then, and tensions increased last week after Yanukovych passed anti-protest legislation making it illegal to cover one's face, set up tents or use a sound system. Although the protests have seen hundreds of injuries in recent days, the three deaths are a first.
The alleged use of deadly force drew swift international condemnation. Earlier today, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tweeted out the federal government's position:
Canada condemns the actions of #Ukraine’s authorities in recent hours. The news that protestors have been killed is deeply troubling.— John Baird (@HonJohnBaird) January 22, 2014
In a statement, he added that he would be consulting with EU Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on how to best respond.
"All options are on the table," he said. "I think we need to be very clear that we can't remain silent."
NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed a similar position. "Violence can never be the answer to a political crisis," he said. "It is urgent that all parties engage in a real dialogue, show restraint and avoid any further escalation."
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that people standing near the clashes between police and protesters received the following ominous text message on their cell phones:
Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.
It's not clear how they were able to accomplish the mass-texting; three cellular providers denied providing the relevant location data, according to the Times.
For more on the crisis in Ukraine and the country's divided loyalties between the EU and Russia, see this CBC backgrounder.
To follow the events directly as they happen, you can monitor several different livestreams broadcasting from Kyiv, read the English-language Kyiv Post and follow the @EuroMaidanEN Twitter account, which provides updates from the protests in English.