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Friday
Feb212014

Death Toll in Kiev Rises to at Least 70

Roman Pilipey/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Ukrainian security forces fired live ammunition at protesters Thursday, triggering a statement by an "outraged" White House that demanded officials withdraw police and warned the Ukrainian military to not get involved.

At least 70 people died after clashes flared up again in Kiev -- a deadly escalation of violence in the Ukrainian capital one day after a truce was negotiated, according to medical workers treating the victims.

"We are outraged by the images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people," the White House said Thursday.

"We urge President Yanukovych to immediately withdraw his security forces from downtown Kiev ... and we urge protesters to express themselves peacefully. We urge the Ukrainian military not to get involved in a conflict that can and should be resolved by political means," the White House said.

The U.S. and Europe will "hold those responsible for violence accountable," the White House said.

It was the second warning from the Obama White House. On Wednesday, the administration said there would be "consequences" for violence against civilians.

Security forces fired at protesters carrying sticks and makeshift shields. Molotov cocktails were thrown at police. Medics used the lobby of one hotel as a hospital and a morgue, with scores of bodies laid out under sheets near the reception desk.

Security forces have taken up positions in the upper levels of buildings, using the vantage to shoot at protesters.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland are reported to be meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev.

The European Union introduced sanctions, including freezing assets and banning visas.

The wave of violence comes after the country's embattled president and top opposition leaders met and called for a truce and negotiations.

The two sides are locked in a battle over the identity of this nation of 46 million, whose loyalties are divided between Russia and the West, and parts of the country are in open revolt against the central government.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would limit the president's power -- a key opposition demand.

Parliament, dominated by his supporters, was stalling on taking up a constitutional reform to limit presidential powers.

The Ukrainian Health Ministry said 28 people died and 287 were hospitalized prior to Thursday's renewed violence.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio