Ukraine's police officers were armed with combat weapons Thursday and dozens of anti-government protesters were killed in bloody battles for control of central Kiev.
Facing sanctions from the United States and the European Union, President Viktor Yanukovych reached a truce with opposition leaders on Wednesday night amid a geopolitical tug-of-war over whether the country should embrace the West or Russia.
But the pact was short lived. Independence Square –- where the protest movement has camped out since November –- descended into urban warfare by 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) with Molotov cocktails being thrown and security forces opening fire.
Ukraine's Health Ministry confirmed 36 deaths on Thursday, bringing this week's official total to 64. But Svyatoslav Khanenko, the head of an opposition medical service, said more than 60 protesters were killed Thursday. NBC News was unable to independently verify that figure.
Video footage on Ukrainian television showed protesters being cut down by gunfire. Trying to protect themselves with makeshift shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or on planks of wood.