Nightly News   |  February 20, 2014

Ukraine Truce Unravels Amid Deadly Violence

At least three police were killed Thursday and hundreds wounded in Independence Square as protesters in small groups advanced.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, it is anyone's guess how this ends up, but tonight just over 600 miles to our northwest in a neighbor to russia, while russia is hosting these winter olympic games there has been terrible bloodshed in the beautiful city of kiev, in the politically divided nation of ukraine. police today were given the go ahead to fire on demonstrators with live ammunition and they did. demonstrators who side more with europe than moscow have been in a pitched fire battle for days, months really, but it just turned truly violent since we were here. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is there to start us off. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian , just last night we were talking about a truce. it did not last long, in fact, we watched it unravel in front of us. and today, after this deadly protest began around 70 demonstrators and at least three police killed today, while hundreds were wounded. protesters charged the police lines in independent square this morning. suddenly, the police were in retreat. protesters in small groups advanced. but they were picked off. this man, shot in the leg. police fired on demonstrators, some with high-powered rifles. but then we saw the dedication that is keeping this movement alive. the protesters confused, peering around corners, dodging bullets, diving for cover. recovering their wounded under fire. they paid a price for it. we watched them come back, limping on stretchers, some unconscious. others dead. the wounded were rushed to a nearby hotel. in the lobby, a nurse tends to one man. another could not be saved. it is a makeshift field hospital , short staffed with few supplies. a body left by the front desk . back outside as the shooting subsided the demonstrators moved to take new ground while they could and build new barricades. and stockpile more weapons. molotov cocktails and rocks. the advance had been costly but it worked. the protesters expanded their terrain. the protesters new that the riot police had withdrawn from the front lines but the demonstrators worried that they could come back, that is why they're reinforcing their troops. alex, a consultant, helped to guard the front line , how do you believe it ends? where does it go from here?

>> maybe a little more victims, i guess, but finally the democracy will win.

>> reporter: the war drums here are beating. there is little mood anymore for truces.

>> we want to destroy this criminal government.

>> reporter: it was the bloodiest day in this three-month struggle against the government. the toll is written on their faces. but the opposition here is still calling it a victory. there are still thousands of demonstrators in this square tonight, brian , and so far it has only been the police involved in the crackdown. the army has been staying out of it. brian ?

>> richard engel who we watched cover combat in iraq and afghanistan and now hard to believe the streets of kiev. richard, thank you for your reporting.