Ukrainian police armed with combat weapons - interior ministry

by Reuters
Thursday, 20 February 2014 14:13 GMT

KIEV, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Ukraine's police force has been armed with combat weapons, the country's acting interior minister said on Thursday, after two days of fierce fighting on the streets of Kiev killed more than 50 people.

A months-long stand-off between "Berkut" riot policemen and protesters demanding regime change erupted in fresh violence this week and the government is under pressure from both Russia and the West to regain control of the situation.

"I signed an order and police have been given combat weapons, which will be used in accordance with the law," acting interior minister Vitaly Zakharschenko said in a statement published on the ministry website.

Television footage this week showed riot police firing bursts from automatic rifles, while in another video, an opposition militant in a helmet opened fire from behind a tree.

Zakharschenko urged protesters to hand in their weapons and opposition leaders to condemn radical actions. (Reporting by Alessandra Prentice, Pavel Polityuk)

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