Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that U.S. sanctions against the Ukraine are possible as thousands of riot police and protesters again massed in the country’s capital after the bloodiest day of violence in the tug of war between Russia and the West.

The White House first threatened to impose sanctions against Ukraine more than two months ago in the early days of the crisis that has torn the country apart.

Chaos reigned again Wednesday as black smoke rose above Kiev and police stun grenades thundered as officers sought to push demonstrators away from Independence Square, the epicenter of the turmoil.

Thousands of activists armed with fire bombs and rocks stood firm, setting up a repeat of the deadly violence that engulfed the square a day earlier.

At least 26 people were killed in Kiev on Tuesday — including 10 police officers — and hundreds were hospitalized in what was Ukraine's deadliest day since since winning independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The country's interim prime minister went as far as to describe the clashes as an attempted coup.

"This was not a demonstration of democracy ... It is the manipulation of people's minds and an attempt to seize power by force," interim Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov told a government meeting watched by The Associated Press on Wednesday morning.

The country’s leading security agency said Wednesday that demonstrators had seized over 1,500 firearms, prompting a nationwide “anti-terrorist” operation to restore order.

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