Ukraine: Witnessing clashes outside Kiev parliament

Crowds face riot police in Kiev
Image caption The protesters could be seen from inside Kiev's parliament building

Several hundred activists had been protesting close to the Ukrainian parliament building from early in the morning.

Initially it was calm, even after MPs had voted for the draft bill that the activists were protesting against.

I was covering the vote inside parliament.

But some minutes after the speaker brought the session to a close I heard noises coming from the square near the parliament. Almost everything was visible through the window.

At first there were minor clashes.

Two walls of people faced each other - well-equipped police and protesters.

Image caption Many of the protesters wore masks

The demonstrators numbered barely more than a few dozen - mainly young men, most of them masked. They started the fights with police, but others supported them.

The protesters tried to pull the policemen away from their lines. They beat them and took their shields and helmets. Soon about a dozen young men were almost as well-equipped as the police.

It was hard to tell who threw the first smoke grenade as they came from both police and protesters.

Image caption MPs had voted to approve more powers for the rebel-held east

Several times the atmosphere near the building seemed to calm down for a while, with clashes starting up again.

And then the explosions began.

Anyone who experienced the clashes in the centre of Kiev in early 2014 will remember the blasts being very loud but generally harmless.

But suddenly there was a blast that was clearly louder than the previous explosions.

The grenade - or whatever it was - fell between the parliament building and the wall of police, just behind them.

Image caption Several police officers were injured

I saw some people - policemen and a fireman - falling to the ground, and some running away from the site, limping. I saw pools of blood just near the wall of parliament

Several policemen appeared to be heavily injured. As the clashes continued their colleagues tried to help them

The violence after that was not as intense. There were more blasts, and everybody seemed frightened by what had happened.

An ambulance arrived at the parliament entrance and about five policemen limped over to it.

Most of the masked young men had by now disappeared from the square. A few protesters threw plastic bottles at the police, but finally the explosion of violence was over.