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Kiev protesters oust police after storming building

AFP , Sunday 26 Jan 2014
Protesters guard government building after an attack in central Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday Jan. 25, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Protesters in the Ukrainian capital Kiev Sunday ousted special police forces from a flashpoint building in the city after storming the premises in new clashes, officials said.

Ukrainian television said that around 200 police forces left the Ukrainian House in central Kiev, a Soviet-era exhibition hall used by troops as a base, by a side entrance.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry confirmed that the forces had withdrawn to avoid a further spike in tensions with the opposition which have seen at least three protesters killed in clashes according to the authorities.

"The ministry's leadership decided to withdraw the reserve unit of security forces from the building," the interior ministry said in a statement.

It said protesters had wanted to blockade the security forces inside and then exchange them for activists taken prisoner during Ukraine's political crisis.

"The security forces did not give into provocations, gave no reason for an escalation and showed restraint," the statement added.

Ukrainian opposition leader and world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who was present at the scene, confirmed the building had been taken.

"The task has been accomplished. The Ukranian House has been taken without bloodshed," the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted him as saying.

Television pictures showed that hundreds of protesters were still at the scene but the situation was calm.

Klitschko said that the protesters did not plan to use the building but would guard its entrances so police did not return.

The Ukrainian House, once the site of a Lenin museum in Soviet times, is a largely empty exhibition centre that was being used by security forces during the crisis.

It is close to the frontline of the clashes on Grushevsky Street which was also largely calm on Sunday morning, AFP correspondents said.

The overnight clashes at the Ukrainian House came after opposition leaders vowed to keep up protests despite an offer of concessions by President Viktor Yanukovych to end the crisis.

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