Ukraine Protesters Shot Dead as Clashes With Police Continue

First fatalities in political upheaval roiling Ukraine since November

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Sergei Supinsky / AFP / Getty Images

A demonstrator holds an incendiary device as protesters clash with police in the center of Kiev on Jan. 22, 2014.

Updated 8:27 a.m. EST

At least two people were reportedly shot dead during violent clashes between police and protesters in Kiev on Wednesday, the first fatalities so far during mass demonstrations that have roiled the country since President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in November.

Oleg Muiy, coordinator of medical services for the protesters, told the Kiyv Post that one 30-something victim had “four wounds to the head, neck and on the chest. The experts will check whether the bullets were rubber.” Another protester death also appeared to be caused by a gunshot wound, and a third died from falling near the scene, the Associated Press reports. Prosecutors later said the first two deaths were caused by live ammunition.

The violence escalated as police began tearing down barricades set up by the anti-government protesters. Violent clashes have erupted between the two sides since Sunday, when demonstrators began rallying against a new set of laws limiting their right to protest.

Barring protesters from wearing masks and helmets, setting up tents or sound equipment, or traveling in convoys of more than five vehicles without authorization, these new restrictions were pushed through Parliament by a show of hands last week, and came into effect on Wednesday. A separate order now also allows riot police to use firearms.

On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry announced that more than 30 protesters had been detained and 119 police officers injured since the new wave of protests kicked off.