3 die as police, protesters clash in Kyiv

WATCH ABOVE: Dramatic footage of police and protesters clashing in Kyiv. WARNING – Graphic Violence

KYIV, Ukraine – Three protesters died in clashes with police in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Wednesday, according to medics on the site, a grim escalation of the country’s two-month-long political crisis.

READ MORE: Timeline: key events in Ukraine protests

One man died in the hospital after falling from a high altitude and two others were killed by gunshot wounds, said Oleh Musiy, co-ordinator of the protesters’ medical corps.

READ MORE: Confrontations with police continue in Kyiv

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov charged that opposition leaders should be held responsible for the deaths and said that police at the site of the clashes did not have live ammunition. But Musiy told The Associated Press the wounds resembled those caused by live ammunition.

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The U.S. Embassy said it was revoking the visas of some Ukrainian officials linked to the violence and was considering further action. The embassy would not name the officials, citing privacy laws.

Protesters use fireworks during clashes with police in central Kyiv, Ukraine, early Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits).

Police moved in on the protesters near a government building Wednesday morning, after three days of vicious street fighting. They were able to dismantle some barricades set up by demonstrators, but were quickly pushed back after more protesters flocked to the site. By noon, thousands of protesters wearing hard hats and face masks were building new barricades from giant bags of snow meters (yards) away from police lines near burnt-out buses covered in ice.

The crisis began in late November after President Viktor Yanukovych stepped back from signing a long-anticipated co-operation deal with the European Union. That set off round-the-clock protests on Kyiv’s central square, where protesters have set up an extensive tent camp.

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Gallery: Protesters clash with police in Ukraine’s capital

The tensions soared last week when Yanukovych pushed through harsh anti-protest legislation. The clashes are occurring several hundred meters away from the protest tent camp site. While hundreds have been injured in recent days, the first deaths were likely to further escalate the crisis.

Three main opposition parties issued a statement blaming Yanukovych and his staunch ally Interior Minister Vitali Zakharcheko for the deaths.

“The Interior Minister, the bloody murderer Zakharchenko, bears personal responsibility for this act of terror of dictatorship against citizens,” the parties said in a statement.

WATCH: Opposition leader and former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko urged protesters in Independence Square to stand their ground Tuesday

Azarov said police at the scene were not responsible for the deaths and blamed the deaths on the protesters.

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“As the Prime Minister of Ukraine, I officially state that the casualties, which unfortunately already exist, remain on the consciousness and responsibility of the organizers and certain participants of mass disturbances,” Azarov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The police move on the barricades came on the same day when much of international attention was focused in Switzerland, where peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s war began Wednesday.

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