(Photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)
President Barack Obama's administration has expressed its outrage after a temporary truce between the Ukrainian government and protesters failed on Thursday, with reports claiming that up to 100 people died in new clashes, while 67 police officers were reportedly taken hostage.
"We are outraged by the images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people. We urge President [Viktor] Yanukovich to immediately withdraw his security forces from downtown Kiev and to respect the right of peaceful protest, and we urge protesters to express themselves peacefully," the White House said in a statement Thursday.
The Obama administration further urged the Ukrainian military not to get involved in the conflict, warning that the use of force will not resolve the crisis.
The statement follows the collapse of a temporary truce between Ukraine President Yanukovich and opposition forces that was reached Wednesday night. According to the opposition's medical service, 100 people were killed and 500 were injured in fresh clashes on Thursday, CNN reported.
"Police are hitting back and are shooting – probably not at random – but they are shooting with live rounds at the protesters," reported Sky News' David Bowden on Thursday.
"The police seem to have been caught off guard and they're reacting very aggressively and basically just shooting people."
The Eastern European country's Interior Ministry said that 67 police officers were captured in Kiev, the capital, Fox News reported. TV footage has shown several officers being led through the camp by protesters.
The crisis, which began in November when Yanukovich decided to stay loyal to Ukraine's economic relations with Russia and refused to sign a trade deal with the European Union, reached exceptionally violent levels this week, with anti-government protesters clashing with riot police at the Independence Square in Kiev.
On Tuesday, at least 26 people were killed while close to 1,000 others were injured as police carrying stun grenades and water cannons stormed a protest encampment.
Several Western countries have threatened sanctions on Ukraine because of the violence, though the Russian government has accused them of trying to intervene in the conflict and making matters worse.
"The ongoing attempts to obtrusively intervene from outside, threat with sanctions or trying to influence the situation in any other ways are inappropriate and can't lead to anything good but can only aggravate the confrontation," Russia's foreign ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, argued.
Obama said in another statement on Wednesday, however, that the White House is holding the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for the situation and urged it to deal with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way.
"We're going to be watching closely, and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters," the U.S. president remarked.
The Obama administration added in its statement on Thursday that the U.S. will "work with our European allies to hold those responsible for violence accountable and to help the Ukrainian people get a unified and independent Ukraine back on the path to a better future."