Picture: AP

The anti-government protests in Ukraine are at their most violent point. At least 18 people have died so far since Tuesday, according to the AP.

The police now seem to be trying to storm Independence Square, aka Maidan, where activists have been camping out and protesting en masse since early December.

The Russian-backed forces loyal to Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych are being met with barrages of Molotov cocktails. Part of the encampment is on fire.

Previously, police had gathered around the square and clashed with protesters, but this time seems to be a more assertive effort. Earlier police asked women and children to leave Maidan so they can begin an “anti-terrorist operation.”

Basically, things could get ugly tonight.

Here is a frequently updated live blog from The Interpreter.

It’s a little after 23:00 in Kiev right now (16:00 EST). Here’s the live stream:

Earlier the Ukrainian Berkut, the feared security apparatus of the state, gave protesters until 18:00 [11:00 EST] to end the demonstrations or face “tough measures.” In response, the Right Sector, a radical far-right group, has called on protestors to start arming themselves.

Here are a couple more of the crazy images coming out of Kiev from today:

Anti-government protesters are as well-armoured as government forces. Picture: AP
A boy walks by a truck on fire during clashes between anti-government protesters and Interior Ministry members. Picture: Reuters
Wounded people are seen after clashes with riot police. Picture: AP
Riot police clash with anti-government protesters outside Ukraine’s parliament. Picture: AP

Below is a video from Radio Free Europe, showing the pandemonium that took place today:

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