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Ukraine: 10 deaths despite truce

There are reports of 10 civilian deaths in two places on Independence Square.

FILE: There are reports of 10 civilian deaths in two places on Independence Square. Picture: AFP.

KIEV - Ukrainian protesters hurling petrol bombs and paving stones drove riot police from the central square in Kiev on Thursday despite a "truce" which embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said he had agreed with opposition leaders.

Afterward, a Reuters photographer saw 10 dead in civilian clothing in two places on Independence Square, known as Maidan, where pro-European demonstrators have been encamped for three months. Television also showed activists in combat fatigues leading away several uniformed policemen they had captured.

The crowd had surged forward to recapture a corner of the square, closest to the presidency and parliament, which riot police had occupied late on Tuesday. Since then, 28 people, including 10 policemen, have been killed in the worst violence since Ukraine became independent of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Both sides have accused the other of using live ammunition.

The flare-up, just as three European foreign ministers arrived in Kiev for talks with Yanukovich to try to promote a political compromise, broke a tense stand-off in the city centre, now alive with wailing police and ambulance sirens.

Parliament was evacuated, local media said, and it was unclear how the violence would affect the plans of the EU delegation of ministers from Germany, France and Poland.

The crisis in the sprawling country of 46 million with an ailing economy and endemic corruption has mounted since Yanukovich pulled out of a planned far-reaching trade agreement with the EU in November under fierce pressure from Moscow and agreed to take a $15-billion Russian bailout instead.