KIEV, Ukraine - Protesters in Kiev stoked what they are calling a "ring of fire" separating themselves from the riot police in a desperate final effort Wednesday to defend a stage on Independence Square that has been a focal point of their protests and keep their three-month-old movement alive.
Men staggering with exhaustion dismantled the tents and field kitchens from the movement's earlier and more peaceful phase and hauled their remnants onto the fires, burning their own encampment in a final act of defiance.
Ukraine's Health Ministry said on Wednesday that 25 people - including police officers, protesters and a journalist found dead on a side street near the square - had been killed after hundreds of riot police officers advanced on the antigovernment demonstrators Tuesday and in subsequent fighting on streets in the government district of the capital.
The Health Ministry said that 241 people had been injured and that nine of the dead were police officers. The Interior Ministry said all the police officers had died from gunshot wounds, although witnesses said it appeared that several officers had been trapped in a burning armored vehicle.
As the scope of the violence became clear, Russia - Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych's ally in the crisis - released a statement blaming the "criminal activities of radical opposition forces" for causing the bloodshed and denouncing European countries for refusing to acknowledge that.
The statement Wednesday from the Russian Foreign Ministry described the violence as an attempted coup and even used the phrase "brown revolution," an allusion to the Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933. The ministry said Russia would use "all our influence to restore peace and calm."
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Putin had spoken by telephone with Yanukovych and expressed support for a swift settlement, but said it was up to Ukraine's government to resolve it without external interference.
Outside of the capital, protesters had again reportedly stormed provincial administrative buildings. Witnesses posting on social networks from western Ukraine, a redoubt of support for the opposition, said that demonstrators who had been protesting outside an Interior Ministry garrison in the region of Lviv had seized the site overnight Tuesday and captured its armory.
In an indication of deepening concern in Washington, the State Department issued an urgent warning late Tuesday advising U.S. citizens in Ukraine to avoid all protests, keep a low profile and remain indoors at night while the clashes continue.