A ring of fire in Kiev

The New York Times reports that the antigovernment protests in Kiev culminated dramatically last night in a ring of fire around their encampment in Independence Square. Here is the top of the story filed by Andrew Higgins and Andrew Kramer from the scene:

With hundreds of riot police officers advancing from all sides after a day of deadly mayhem here in the Ukrainian capital, antigovernment protesters mounted a final desperate and seemingly doomed act of defiance late on Tuesday evening, establishing a protective ring of fire around what remained of their all-but-conquered encampment on Independence Square.

Feeding the blazing defenses with blankets, tires, wood, sheets of plastic foam and anything else that might burn, the protesters hoped to prolong, for a while longer at least, a tumultuous protest movement against President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a leader who was democratically elected in 2010 but is widely reviled here as corrupt and authoritarian.

“It is called the tactic of scorched earth,” said a protester who identified himself as Andriy.

And then there is this:

The police reported earlier in the day that at least nine people, including two police officers, had been killed, but then raised this to 14, making it by far the worst day of violence in more than two months of protests and, for most Ukrainians, the bloodiest in living memory. The final death toll appears certain to be higher.

Reading the rest of the article, one can infer that the hand of Vladimir Putin and Putin’s Russia looms large in the thrashing of the opposition to Yanukovych. Enter Joe Biden:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. telephoned Mr. Yanukovych to “express grave concern regarding the crisis on the streets” of Kiev, and urged him “to pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint,” the vice president’s office said in a statement.

Biden’s statement suggests an American interest in the outcome of the protests, but the performance of the task by Biden reflects that the mission has been assigned a low priority and that it will be unavailing.

The video below, posted here by Glenn Reynolds, puts a human face on the story.

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