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With shields and catapults, Ukrainian protests look more like Medieval battlefield

  • af378dfb63f9d503490f6a7067008aa4.jpg

    FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, Protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine. Protesters in Kiev used improvised protective gear to protect themselves from stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas during clashes with police in central Kiev this week? After a night of vicious streets battles, anti-government protesters and police clashed anew Monday in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, file) (The Associated Press)

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    FILE In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine. After a night of vicious street battles, anti-government protesters and police clashed again Monday in Ukraine's capital. Hundreds of protesters, many wearing balaclavas, hurled rocks and stun grenades. Police responded with tear gas. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, file) (The Associated Press)

  • 7087773963fcd503490f6a7067008569.jpg

    FILE - In this file photo taken on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, Protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine. Protesters in Kiev used improvised protective gear to protect themselves from stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas during clashes with police in central Kiev this week? After a night of vicious streets battles, anti-government protesters and police clashed anew Monday in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Hundreds of protesters, many wearing balaclavas, hurled rocks and police responded with tear gas. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, file) (The Associated Press)

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    FILE - In this file photo taken on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, Protesters use a large slingshot to hurl a Molotov cocktail at police in central Kiev, Ukraine. Protesters in Kiev built the catapult to pelt firebombs at police at a longer distance and bigger damage. Thick black smoke from burning tires engulfed parts of downtown Kiev as an ultimatum issued by the opposition to the president to call early election or face street rage was set to expire with no sign of a compromise on Thursday. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, file) (The Associated Press)

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    FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, Protesters clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine. 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/Sergei Chuzavkov, file) (The Associated Press)

The towering fleece hats and elaborate beards of Ukraine's 16th-century Cossacks are favored by many of the demonstrators on Kiev's main square, who have camped out in anti-government protests for nearly two months.

When events turned violent this week, demonstrators' weapons also had an antique aura and clashes resembled a Medieval assault.

ARMED TO THE TEETH

Protesters have armed themselves like Crusaders with plywood shields, often painted with a cross, against the stun grenades and rubber bullets from police lines. They broke up the pavement on nearby streets and squares, lobbing the chunks toward the police.

They also hurled firebombs, firecrackers and fireworks at riot police officers, many of whom were injured when firebombs spilled burning fuel on their uniforms and helmets. Meanwhile, pro-opposition websites have alleged that the police are wrapping their stun grenades with nails and pieces of metal in order to inflict injuries.

Many protesters are protecting their heads with helmets and even colanders. One man came in Medieval battle armor, and another fashioned himself a bow and arrow for the fight. One group of men made a massive catapult from boards to pelt firebombs a longer distance; when it was burned down in a police attack, they rebuilt it the next day.

THE BARRICADES

Protesters have attempted to keep the police at bay by building 10-foot-high (3-meter-high) barricades along all the entrances to Kiev's Independence Square. The barricades are piled high with everything from wooden poles to rubber tires.

On Thursday night, as temperatures dropped to minus-15 C (5 F), demonstrators shoveled snow into burlap sacks and tossed them to the top of the heap. They splashed the barricades with water to make them freeze solid and be tricky for police to climb.

On Wednesday, after police chased demonstrators away from one clash site, demonstrators set huge piles of tires alight, engulfing much of downtown Kiev in billowing black smoke.

TAUNTING THE ENEMY

Some protesters erected a mock tribunal with an effigy of President Viktor Yanukovych in a striped inmate's uniform, sitting in a cage with his arms and neck tied up to the metal bars. The opposition has invented a wide variety of chants mocking Yanukovych and his deputies.