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Deaths of 2 protesters inflame Ukraine

A protester points a handgun during a clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Three people have died in clashes between protesters and police in the Ukrainian capital Wednesday, according to medics on the site, in a development that will likely escalate Ukraine's two month-long political crisis. The mass protests in the capital of Kiev erupted after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych spurned a pact with the European Union in favor of close ties with Russia, which offered him a $15 billion bailout. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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By USA Today
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 6:24 p.m.

KIEV, Ukraine — The deaths of two people protesting the crackdown on the right to assemble in Ukraine threatens to spark a major confrontation between demonstrators and the government, analysts said Wednesday.

Two protesters were shot dead and hundreds more people injured Wednesday night in anti-government protests that appear to be escalating. Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych for strengthening ties with Russia's Vladimir Putin and spurning a pact with the European Union.

“Now that he has launched a serious (use of) force, there is no way back for Yanukovych,” said Yuriy Romanenko, director of Stratagema, a political think tank in Kiev. “If he steps back, it may ruin the law enforcement system that supports him.”

Although the Interior Ministry confirmed the two deaths, protesters said the actual number killed was higher. Oleg Musiy, the coordinator of a team of medical volunteers helping protesters, said five protesters had died from gunshot wounds and another 300 were injured.

Opposition leaders in Ukraine are asking protesters to refrain from clashing with police for the next 24 hours, after at least two demonstrators were shot and killed in confrontations with police.

Emerging after three hours of talks with Yanukovych in the evening, opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he gave the president until the following evening either to call early elections or face popular rage.

The anti-government protests turned violent Sunday afternoon when radicals attacked police.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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